An electrical utility work crew. Photo courtesy SDG&E
An electrical utility work crew. Photo courtesy SDG&E

With a harsh hot spell bearing down on Southern California, state workplace safety officials advised employers to protect their outdoor workers from risks associated with heat illness through Monday.

Temperatures are expected to be 15 to 25 degrees above normal across Southern California over the next six days, according to the National Weather Service.

A heat advisory for San Diego County’s deserts is scheduled to remain in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. High temperatures today are expected to range from 109 to 114 degrees, and from 110 to 115 degrees on Thursday.

“During times of sustained high heat, it is especially important that employers take the necessary steps to prevent heat illness for their outdoor workers,” said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations.

California’s 10-year-old regulations for heat-illness prevention were amended effective May 1. The changes clarify requirements related to the provision of water rest and shade protections for all outdoor workers, which are detailed in Cal/OSHA’s guidance on the new requirements.

Employer requirements under the heat regulation include:

  • training for all employees and supervisors about heat-illness prevention;
  • provision of cool, fresh water as close as practicable to the work area at no cost to workers;
  • shade provided whenever the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and enough shade to accommodate the number of workers taking a break;
  • encouragement of employees to take cool-down rests and monitoring for symptoms of heat illness; and
  • acclimatization to ensure that workers, especially new hires, safely adapt to increased temperatures during a heat wave.

Special high-heat procedures are also required when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher and workers are at greater risk. At these times, supervisors must take the following extra precautions:

  • observe workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness;
  • hold pre-shift meetings on safety and remind workers to drink water frequently;
  • require that workers take a cool-down rest every two hours; and
  • ensure effective communication systems are in place so that emergency assistance can be summoned immediately if necessary.

Cal/OSHA inspects work sites in outdoor industries such as agriculture, construction, landscaping, and others throughout the heat season. Through partnerships with various employer and worker organizations in different industries, the agency also provides consultation, outreach and training on heat illness prevention.

— City News Service