DESPITE A LAW requiring that Cal/OSHA create indoor heat illness regulations by 2019, no regulations are yet on the books, making for a difficult situation as many parts of California are experiencing some of the highest temperatures on record.

The workplace safety agency implemented heat illness prevention regulations for outdoor workers in 2013, but as the sustained heat wave leaves Northern California and the Central Valley sweltering, the problem of heat illness is affecting more and more indoor workers.

The Sacramento Bee recently reported on the issue:

• Workers at a fast food establishment went on strike after the air conditioner went out.
• Workers at a Southern California warehouse had to bring fans in to keep cool as temperatures in some parts of the facility reached 113 degrees.

The Most At-Risk Worksites

  • Warehouses
  • Printing facilities
  • Laundries
  • Manufacturing operations
  • Kitchens
  • Bakeries
  • Boiler rooms
  • epair and body shops

What you can do

While Cal/OSHA has not yet implemented anything for indoor workers, it does have a working draft standard that includes the following highlights:

Maintain one or more cool-down areas at all times – The area must be large enough to accommodate workers sitting in a normal posture without having to be in physical contact with each other.

The cool-down area must be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. The temperature in the indoor cool-down area must be less than 82 degrees.

Employers should encourage wokers to take preventative cool-down rests when needed.

Engineering controls – Employers can use engineering controls (air conditioners or fans) to maintain temperature below 87 degrees.

Emergency response procedures – The employer must put in place plans for responding to a heat illness emergency, including:

  • A system for communication so that employees can contact a supervisor or emergency medical services if necessary.
  • Steps to take when someone has signs or symptoms of heat illness. Depending on the symptoms, they can range from first aid measures to emergency response procedures for serious cases. That would include contacting emergency services.

Employee training – Employers must train their workers in the:

  • Environmental and personal risk factors for heat illness.
  • Company’s heat illness prevention procedures and rules such as employee access to water, cool-down rests and access to first aid.
  • Importance of frequent drinks of small quantities of water.
  • Way employees can acclimatize to working in heat.
  • Signs and symptoms of different stages of heat illness, from mild ones that require only rest to severe to life-threatening symptoms that require immediate emergency services.
  • Importance of immediately reporting to a supervisor signs of heat illness in themselves, or in co-workers.
  • Employer’s procedures for responding to an event, including emergency medical services.

The takeaway

If you have workers in an indoor environment that can get hot during the summer months, in light of this summer’s intense heat in many parts of the state, take steps to protect them.

You can still be cited by Cal/OSHA for not protecting indoor workers if you have a health emergency or worker death on your hands due to heat illness.

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