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Revised heat-illness rules may increase your responsibilities

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in Human Resources

If your employees work outdoors or in other hot environments, get ready for tougher rules governing the measures you must take to prevent heat-related illness and injury.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has unanimously voted to revise California’s already stringent heat-illness prevention regulations, formalizing temporary, emergency rules that have been in place since 2005.

The rules apply to employers in the agricultural, construction, landscaping and oil and gas extraction industries, as well as companies that deliver agricultural products and construction and other heavy materials.

The changes add temperature triggers that require specific actions when the thermometer rises to certain levels. The rules used to require employers to provide workers access to shade and one quart of drinking water every hour.

Under the new rules, when temperatures are 95 degrees or higher, employers must observe workers to ensure that they are drinking the provided water. Employers can’t charge workers for water, which must be “suitably cool.”

The rules also require employers to provide shade when workers request it, and permit five-minute breaks in the shade when workers feel overheated.

When temperatures are 85 degrees or higher, employers must provide enough shade to accommodate 25% of on-duty workers. The rules state the shaded area must be as close “as practicable” to the work area.

The new rules clarify employers’ duty to train supervisors on how to avoid heat illness and how to recognize the symptoms of heat illness.

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