Heat Illness Prevention

Heat illness is a medical condition that results from the body’s inability to cope with hot conditions and cool itself. In 2005, preventable heat illness resulted in the deaths of 13 workers in California and led to the passage of the state’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard. Through the passage of this standard in 2005, employers are required to provide training, water, shade and rest to their outdoor worksite employees. They are also required to develop and implement a plan for complying with the standard. These procedures must also be made available in writing to all employees upon request.

Training employees is also an important component of preventing heat illness. Before you work outside, you should be trained in heat illness prevention. The Department of Industrial Relations states that employees should be given the following information as part of their training:

  • Environmental and personal risk factors
  • Employer’s heat illness prevention plan and procedures
  • They need to drink water frequently throughout the day.
  • Importance of acclimatization (allowing the body to adjust
  • gradually to the work in high heat)
  • Types of heat illness and the signs and symptoms
  • Necessity of immediately reporting to an employer any signs or symptoms
  • Employer’s procedures for responding to symptoms
  • Employer’s procedures for contacting emergency medical services. This includes alternative modes of transportation
  • Employer’s procedures for emergency communications. This includes the emergency response procedures such as location, local medical services, and communication alternatives.

For more information on health illness prevention, visit the Department of Industrial Relations website. For help with a heat-related problem at work, you can call 1-877-99-CALOR, someone can help you in English or Spanish.

To locate your local Cal/OSHA office, visit www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/DistrictOffices.htm or you can find your local office using your zip code at www.dir.ca.gov/asp/DoshZipSearch.html.

Heat Safety Tips

The California Department of Industrial Relations provides the following heat safety tips for agricultural workers on its website at www.99calor.org.

  1. Drink water often – even if you are not thirsty. It’s best to drink a small amount often, like a cup or two cones every 15 minutes. Avoid drinks like sodas, coffee, energy drinks or alcoholic drinks. They dehydrate you and make it more dangerous to work in the heat.
  2. Rest in the shade when you need to cool down. You have the right to at least 5 minutes in the shade. This “recovery period” is allowed under California’s heat standard, and is in addition to the regularly scheduled breaks for meals and rest. Regular breaks are 10 minutes (paid) for every 4 hours of work, and a 30-minute meal break (unpaid) for every five hours worked.
  3. Report heat symptoms early. Watch out for each other and let your employer know right away if anyone has heat symptoms.
  4. Know what to do in an emergency. Employers must train you on what to do and who to call if anyone has heat symptoms, and on how to give precise directions to the worksite in case you need to call for medical help. Heat illness can be deadly, so get help right away.
  5. Wear hats and light-colored clothing– they help block the sun.