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Cal/OSHA adopts revised heat safety regulations

Posted: August 20, 2010 11:57 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2010 11:57 a.m.

Sacramento, Calif. -- The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved revisions to the Heat Illness Prevention Standard Thursday.

The modifications address high-heat procedure requirements for certain industries, clarification of the shade requirement, including temperature triggers, and the provision for flexibility to employers under this requirement.

"I commend the Board for its action today to strengthen workplace safety in this important area," said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. "This is a critical part of our overall mission which includes enforcement, outreach and forging partnerships to educate employers on their responsibilities and workers on their rights. Our ultimate goal here is to keep all outdoor workers safe in the heat."

The revisions have added high-heat procedures for five industries when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher, including agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy materials.

These procedures include observing employees, closely supervising new employees and reminding all workers to drink water.

The following shade requirements are also provided in the revisions:

* Shade must be present when temperatures reach or exceed 85 degrees. When temperatures are below 85 degrees, employers shall provide timely access to shade upon an employee's request.

* Shade must be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working.

* Requirements allow for all industries, excluding agriculture, to implement alternative procedures for providing access to shade in instances where the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or unsafe to have a shade structure, or otherwise to have shade present on a continuous basis. The alternative procedures or cooling methods must provide equivalent protection as shade and can include methods such as misting machines.

"The amendments adopted today represent important measures to clarify and strengthen the heat illness prevention standard," said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh.

The Office of Administrative Law now has 30 business days to approve the modifications. The revisions are expected to take effect this fall.

In 2005, under the leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation to protect workers from heat illness, representatives of California Department of Industrial Relations and Cal/OSHA Labor said.

Code Section 3395 went into effect in 2006. The regulations include providing employees with water, shade and rest as well as heat illness training for employees and supervisors.

Cal/OSHA is the employee health and safety division of the Department of Industrial Relations.


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