Heat Illness | A Detailed Explanation of an Employer’s Legal Responsibility

Are you aware of OSHA and state regulations regarding an employer’s responsibility to protect employees from heat illness?

It is often said a business is only as good as the people it has working for it. That is why it is important on hot days, like the ones we are currently experiencing, employers protect their employees from heat illness. Not only is it good for employee morale, and can help limit your liability to legal judgments, it is the law in the state of California.

Under California state employment regulations, if you employ workers who work outside in the industries of agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, or the transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction materials or other heavy materials or goods, you are required to take certain measures to ensure your employees’ well being.

The regulations apply to all employers with outdoor places of employment, although certain industries must follow additional “high heat” procedures when the temperature reaches or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The state interprets “outdoor places of employment” to include any open area, including fields, forests, parks, yards, roads, construction sites, and outdoor areas adjacent to buildings, such as loading docks.

Sheds and temporary structures may be considered outdoor places of employment depending on whether the structure decreases the risk of heat illness. If the structure does not significantly reduce the net effect of the environmental risk factors for heat illness, the state would consider it an “outdoor place of employment.” The state has taken the position that employees who spend any significant amount of time working outside would create an outdoor place of employment.

Employers must provide the following accommodations to their employees on days which reach 85 degrees or higher:

  • Convenient access to enough cool water for each employee to consume at least one quart per hour. This must be done at no expense to the employee. This can be accomplished by providing water fountains that dispense cool water, a water cooler with cups, or bottled water in a fridge or ice chest.
  • Employers must provide access to shade for employees. It must be open to the air, or have air conditioning if enclosed, and provide enough room for at least 25% of your workforce to rest comfortably without crowding each other.
  • Management must be trained to spot symptoms of heat illness and procedures for prompt access to medical attention must be in place.
  • It is the responsibility of the employer to monitor weather conditions and prepare accordingly for days that will reach 85 degrees or higher.

The state mandates that employers must develop additional protocols to address heat at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. These protocols include:

  • Ensuring that effective communication by voice, observation, or reliable electronic means (e.g., cell phone) is maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor when necessary.
  • Observing employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness.
  • Reminding employees throughout the work shift to drink plenty of water.
  • Closely supervising any new employee for the first 14 days of employment, unless the new employee indicates at the time of hire that he or she has been doing similar outdoor work for at least 10 of the past 30 days for 4 or more hours per day.

Below is a chart that outlines the most common heat related illness issues, their symptoms, and recommended first aid steps.

To comply with the regulations, Conrey Insurance Brokers recommends that employers should take four essential steps:

Develop and implement written procedures for addressing heat illness prevention.

  • Train employees and supervisors.
  • Provide adequate water.
  • Provide adequate shade.

As experienced risk managers it is our responsibility to educate our clients on operational best practices to help limit their exposure to potential liability. We share a vested interest in the profitability and success of your operations.

Conrey Insurance Brokers is a concierge-style insurance and financial services agency. We can assist in the proper protection of both personal and business needs. We don’t just sell insurance policies, we partner with our clients to put them in a position to succeed.

If interested in learning how Conrey Insurance Brokers sets itself apart from the typical insurance agency, call us at 1-877-450-1872 or go to our website.