Allevity Blog

New Heat Illness Regulations and What they Mean for You

Sep 12, 2018

Everyone loves California. The glitz, glamour and beaches; it’s no wonder that people travel all over the world to vacation in the state we call home. 

Which means that all of us, are living the dream!

But with all that desirable California sunshine (and the beach glow outsiders so desperately yearn for) comes hazards that those in less sunshiny states don’t have to worry about. Most notably, heat illness. 

Now, not everyone has seen or experienced heat illness, but when it comes to employees working outside – the risk is always a possibility. Symptoms can vary from minor cramps to heat stroke, and employers should absolutely take prevention seriously. Not only because taking care of your employees is smart business, but also because… it’s the law. 

As of May 1st 2015, there are a few key changes going into effect for California’s Heat Illness Prevention Regulations that all employers should be aware of. 

Let’s Talk About Shade

The new regulations make a few modified points about “shade.” First of all, to the definition, the words “that does not deter or discourage access or use” have been added. Which means that your designated shade area should be someplace reasonably accessible to employees and not, for instance, located in the middle of a patch of poison ivy. 

The other change is the temperature at which a shade area should be provided. Previously, that triggering temp was 85 degrees. The new regulations lower it down to 80 degrees. Any time temps venture out of the 70’s, shade must be provided. 

Additional amendments now require that the shade area be large enough to accommodate all employees who are on a meal period at any given time.

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

What? There is never an inappropriate time for a TLC reference!

But seriously, water is a big part of heat illness prevention, and regulations have long required that all employees have access to potable drinking water. The new requirements simply expand upon what counts as potable drinking water, adding in the language “that it be fresh, pure, suitably cool and provided to employees free of charge.” The water also needs to be located reasonably near the work area.

Preventative Maintenance

The new requirements now dictate that employees who are taking a preventative cool-down rest in the shade should be monitored for signs of heat illness, and encouraged to remain in the shade until any potential symptoms have passed. This means that when your employees opt for those preventable cool-downs, their supervisors should be asking if they are experiencing any symptoms of heat illness and encouraging them to remain in the shade, at least until all signs of heat illness have dissipated. This period of time should not be less than 5 minutes, not including the time it takes employees to get to the shaded area.

Should an employee exhibit actual signs or report any symptoms of heat illness during these cool-down rests, it is up to the employer to provide first aid and emergency response, as outlined by the new regulations. 

Some Like it Hot

What about when things get really hot? Like, sneaking into that 95 degrees or above range? 

Well, for those in agriculture, high temps mean that employers are required to ensure their employees are taking a minimum 10-minute net preventative cool-down rest period every two hours. The requirements for emergency response procedures have also been amended for these high temperatures, including new requirements for the availability of electronic communications.

Heat illness is no joke, and helping your employees to remain in tip-top health should remain a high priority. We may be living the dream, but you still need to make sure your employees are taking adequate breaks away from all that coveted sunshine once the temps start rising.  

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