California workers in various industries are vulnerable to suffering heat illness. If you work in construction, landscaping, agriculture, utilities, transportation, grounds maintenance, utilities, or the oil and gas industry, your risk for suffering heat illness is high. Although it could be deadly, heat illness is preventable.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health prescribes strict rules and regulations to keep workers safe. The agency says an estimated 50% to 70% of heat illness cases occur during the initial few hot days of summer. You could avoid being a victim by getting familiar with the prescribed Cal/OSHA safety standards.
Adjust to the hot weather
Your body could take up to 14 days to adjust to heat exposure. Cal/OSHA suggests employers reduce shift lengths and workloads during the first few hot weather days and then gradually increase duties and hours to allow you and your co-workers to acclimate. If you do not work near heavy equipment or machinery, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that will not trap the body heat.
Your employer must provide training for heat illness prevention, regardless of the level of experience of workers. A reminder of the dangers and how to mitigate them could prevent complacency. Training must include the symptoms and signs of heat illness so that workers can look out for each other and identify the telltale signs of it. You must learn to recognize the different heat illness types, the high-risk environmental factors, and the steps to take when you or a co-worker shows signs of heat illness.
Adequate water supply
You should have access to at least one quart, or four cups, of water each hour. Proper hydration is crucial in heat illness prevention. Your employer must ensure that enough cool, pure and fresh water is available for the entire work crew throughout the day. Water stations must be close to your work area.
Shade is essential
Your employer must allow you to take frequent breaks in shady areas on days when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If there are no trees or buildings to provide enough shade for all the workers, pop-up canopies must be available. Furthermore, your employer must allow cool-down breaks of at least five minutes whenever you need it and longer when you show signs of the onset of heat illness.
By law, employers must ensure workers have access to a written plan to prevent heat illness — in English and any other language of non-English speaking workers. Emergency response procedures must be clear. The lack of immediate treatment of heat illness could lead to death.
If you become a victim of heat illness, California workers’ compensation benefits will cover your medical expenses. If your condition causes several days of absence from work, a percentage of your lost wages will form a part of the compensation.