OAKLAND, Calif. -- As temperatures rise across California after the first day of summer, the Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) is stepping up enforcement of heat illness prevention requirements at outdoor worksites across the state.
"While we have seen growing compliance with the heat illness prevention regulations, all employers must continue to be vigilant and take necessary precautions to prevent serious worker illness and death due to high heat," said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. "We will be out there across the state, ensuring that all employers are complying with the heat standard. These basic requirements--adequate water, shade, rest breaks, training and emergency procedures--can mean the difference between life and death to protect the most vulnerable employees working outdoors."
Cal/OSHA's efforts this summer are designed strategically to target employers who evade the law which protects employees from heat related illness. Enforcement efforts include statewide traveling heat sweeps, local district actions when temperatures soar and workers are at greatest risk, as well as multi-agency enforcement through the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition.
"Our program will be strategic, focusing on workers at highest risk in outdoor industries such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and locations where we expect to find serious violations. We will be identifying and targeting employers who skirt the law at workers' expense," added Widess. "Extreme heat can be fatal to outdoor workers if these basic protections are not provided."
Cal/OSHA is providing extensive outreach, consultation, and educational programs on heat illness prevention for employers and their associations and to workers and their organizations this summer. Partnerships with employer and employee groups, as well as community based organizations have proven successful in reaching both employers and employees. Cal/OSHA will intensify its media outreach statewide, to Spanish and English press, radio and television to get the word out. The social marketing campaign that began last year in Spanish, Hmong, Mixteco and Punjabi continues this summer, with increased efforts to reach out to other communities as well. Cal/OSHA's Consultation Program is also working to train employers and to identify those who engage in best practices for heat illness prevention and other worksite safety protocols.
"All employers should know that during times of high heat, if we find that conditions at an outdoor worksite are putting vulnerable employees at risk due to lack of shade or water, we will shut them down until hazards are abated," added Widess. "We work closely with other agencies such as the California Labor Commissioner's Office and the Contractor's State Licensing Board to bring serious enforcement actions against employers who are found in violation of health and safety and labor standards."
The heat illness prevention standard was strengthened last year to include a high heat provision that must be implemented by five industries when temperatures reach 95 degrees. These procedures include observing employees, closely supervising new employees, and reminding all employees throughout the shift to drink water. The specified industries include agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy material.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, can call the California Workers' Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757 or 1-877-99-CALOR.