Heat Waves Are Serious Business

Posted by Melodie Elliott on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 @ 05:19 PM

Did you know heat waves are a primary cause of worker heat-related illnesses and fatalities in the state of California? This fact is illustrated in a thorough case study completed in 2006.  The study showed that 84% of the confirmed occupational heat illnesses in 2006 occurred during a July heat wave.

Nationally, Weather.com just last week shared additional information on the magnitude of heat related deaths: https://weather.com/science/weather-explainers/news/weather-event-fatalities-heat. According to the Natioanl Weather Service, heat is the weather event that produces the greatest number of weather related fatalities - even ahead of floods and tornadoes - each year. 

did you know.png

All of this means that heat waves are not only a serious matter, it is a matter of serious business to your bottom-line by ensuring your workers stay healthy on your job and able to return day-in and day-out. 

Since we discussed in our prior blog this month that Cal/OSHA sets a standard for the nation on worker protection, let's go back to specifics as a good example to follow. In 2006, Cal/OSHA (California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA) mandated regulations aimed at heat illness prevention.  This includes “high-heat procedures” that focus on:

  • Observation – following the weather to know when heat is coming and implementing a buddy system that encourages onsite workers to look out for each other
  • Communication (including pre-shift meetings before the commencement of work to review the high heat procedures)
  • Taking proactive action – encouraging employees to drink plenty of water, and reminding employees of their right to take a cool-down rest when necessary.

A heat wave, especially when temperatures are over 95°F, requires more. This is outlined in section (e) from the Cal/OSHA site: https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/3395.html. To summarize in the most basic terms, it requires California employers with agricultural workers, construction workers, landscapers and any other industry with outdoor workers to provide more than adequate water, shade, rest breaks and training.  This rule applies when temperatures are higher than 80°F degrees, but it should be noted additional requirements apply when the outdoor temperature exceeds 95°F.  At that particular temperature, a more stringent set of rules are in place to prevent heat illness. 

To stand in compliance with these regulations above 95°F, you must have in place “an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)” as stipulated by Cal/OSHA. Additionally, besides providing water and first aid, “the employer must ensure that the employee takes a minimum ten-minute net preventative cool-down rest period every two hours.  If the workday will extend beyond eight hours, then an additional preventative cool-down rest period will be required at the conclusion of the eighth hour of work; and if the workday extends beyond ten hours, then another preventative cool-down rest period will be required at the conclusion of the tenth hour and so on. For purposes of this section, preventative cool-down rest period has the same meaning as “recovery period” in Labor Code Section 226.7(a).”

Meeting these requirements is part of the fundamentals of being compliant, but employers should also evaluate cooling options to help ensure employees stay safe and productive at higher temperatures. Given A/C is not a practical option outside, utilizing an energy-efficient cooling method such as a portable evaporative cooler may be a viable solution. Evaporative coolers provide natural cooling and can be operated with a generator to deliver a comfortable cool-down space for employees.  Portacool evaporative coolers come in a range of sizes, operate with a standard 110-V and are equipped with heavy-duty castors to provide easy mobility for achieving cooling where it is needed.

Planning ahead makes a difference.  Take the time BEFORE a heat wave hits to plan for protecting your workers. It may be the difference between life and death.

*Article sources:

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatIllnessQA.html#item-4http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/etools/08-006/EWP_mwc.htm; https://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/3395.html;

Topics: Evaporative Cooler, evaporative cooling, Extreme Heat, @heatstress, #calosha, Heat Illness, heat wave, Cal/OSHA, National Weather Service

Cal/OSHA Code & Compliance Rules To address now for Outdoor Workers

Posted by Melodie Elliott on Wed, Jun 07, 2017 @ 12:52 PM

June is National Safety Month, as deemed by the National Safety Council. Nationally, worker safety and health on the job is advocated through the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA. In addition to OSHA regulations, further worker protection is provided by individual state regulatory agencies. In California, that agency is the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and it is better known as Cal/OSHA. Nationally, Cal/OSHA is known to be a trailblazer for developing the most stringent regulations to protect employees.  Often, other states look to this agency’s regulations as an example to follow and mirror for adoption into their own states.

Outdoor working conditions began showing up on Cal/OSHA’s radar in 2006 after a July heat wave took the lives of multiple workers.  During the last ten years, the agency has created important mandates to regulate outdoor workplaces to prevent heat illness and undue fatalities. This map from OSHA shows why this is a real concern in California:

Map from OSHA on heat illness in USA.jpg

Image above from: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/map.html

More recently, in 2015 Cal/OSHA amended the Heat Illness Prevention Regulation. While there are many specific codes, it is important to note if you operate a business in California with workers that are directly impacted by hot working conditions outdoors there is one particular regulation to be sure to review: Title 8 Section 3395 – Heat Illness Prevention.  This regulation can significantly affect your daily operating procedures. To summarize in the most basic terms, it requires California employers with agricultural workers, construction workers, landscapers and any other industry with outdoor workers to provide more than adequate water, shade, rest breaks and training.  This rule applies when temperatures are over 80°F; however, it should be noted that additional requirements apply when the outdoor temperature exceeds 95°F.  Cal/OSHA has determined that at 95°F, outdoor workers are at high risk for heat-related illnesses and a more stringent set of rules must be followed.

To stand in compliance with these regulations above 95°F, business owners must provide a minimum ten-minute net preventative cool-down rest period every two hours, as well as provide workers drinking water, first aid and emergency response. Additionally, employers must have in place “an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)” as outlined by Cal/OSHA. You can peruse the particulars in the link above for Title 8 Section 3395.

The key takeaways, however, to make sure your business stays ahead of regulation is to implement preventative measures.  Your planning (and if in California, to be outlined in your IIPP) should include:

  • The basics - Providing water, scheduling rest and ensuring there is a shaded area for cool-down and recovery.
  • Training – Go above and beyond to train supervisors on safety planning. This includes knowing the forecast before the shift begins and planning accordingly, buddy systems for the workers, etc.
  • Knowledge – Beyond training, make sure your team understands how the body handles heat and hot conditions so they can take the risk seriously. As temperatures rise, the body releases heat more slowly. As humidity increases, the body’s sweat evaporation decreases and stagnant air makes sweat evaporation more difficult. This is why shade is not listed as adequate when heat in the area of shade defeats the purpose of shade, which is to allow the body to cool. Metal storage buildings, insides of vehicles and areas near heat generating equipment are NOT considered to be adequate shade areas.
  • Proactive “cool-downs” with shade – Offering cooling can be tough outdoors, but aside from water and creating a shaded space (with a canopy, tent, etc.), creating a cooler space or station can help the body recover. Consider placing a practical, portable evaporative cooler such as Portacool evaporative coolers  These coolers come in a range of sizes with heavy-duty castors to provide easy mobility for achieving cooling where it is needed. The coolers work-off a standard 110-V plug making it easy to use in hard to cool spaces or outdoors. Evaporative coolers work with the ambient air and water to provide a noticeable difference in air temperature.
  • Tools for heat-recovery – In addition to creating a cooling station, consider handing out cooling towels to help aid in temperature recovery.
  • Plan for acclimatization – Building up a worker’s tolerance to the heat is important. According to Cal/OSHA’s code: (1) all employees shall be closely observed by a supervisor or designee during a heat wave. For purposes of this section only, “heat wave” means any day in which the predicted high temperature for the day will be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit and at least ten degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average high daily temperature in the preceding five days. (2) An employee who has been newly assigned to a high heat area shall be closely observed by a supervisor or designee for the first 14 days of the employee's employment.

 Planning is key.  Be sure to be ahead of the heat this summer to protect worker safety and meet regulations.

Article source for more info: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatIllnessQA.html#item-4

Topics: OSHA, California, Portacool, @heatstress, portable coolers, #calosha, Heat Illness, Title 8 Section 3395, portable evaporative cooler, outdoor heat, working environments

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