California Heat Illness Prevention Program

The purpose of the Heat Illness Prevention Program is to meet the requirements set forth in the Standard and to serve as a required supplement of the Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP) Program. This program establishes procedures and provides information to ensure that  employees are knowledgeable in the prevention and recognition of heat stress to ensure their own safety and the safety of others.

In Central California, on average, our hot season starts June 5 and runs until September 23rd. Being prepared can reduce the stress of last minute preparations for hot weather and heat illness.

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Heat Illness Prevention

Basic Requirements for Heat Illness Prevention

California has specific requirements when it comes to Heat Illness Prevention. Each member of your team has certain responsibilities for heat illness prevention.

Health & Safety Coordinator

  • Establish and update the written Heat Illness Prevention Program;
  • Provide consultation/training to departments who fall within the program; and
  • Assist departments in determining when, where, and how shade and water is provided.

Supervisors

  • Identify and maintain records of all tasks/employees that are required to work outdoors where potential heat illness could occur;
  • Require all potentially impacted employees to receive proper training on heat illness prevention and comply with all appropriate procedures;
  • Maintain training records;
  • Ensure that adequate water is available at the beginning of each shift and throughout the work day;
  • Ensure access to shade for purposes of a preventative recovery period is available during the work day; and
  • Follow proper procedures to contact emergency medical services in the event medical assistance is required.

Employees

  • Awareness and compliance with all appropriate heat illness prevention procedures while performing assigned duties;
  • Employees are ultimately responsible for drinking adequate amounts of hydrating fluids when the environmental risk factors for heat illness are present;
  • Ensure access to a shaded area is available to recover from heat-related symptoms;
  • Inform their supervisor if shade and/or water are inadequate;
  • Report symptoms of heat-related illness promptly to their supervisor; and
  • Follow proper procedures in the event medical assistance is required.
heat illness prevention

Provision of Water

Employees will have access to potable drinking water. Water will be fresh, pure, suitably cool and provided to employees free of charge. The water will be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. Where water is not plumbed, or otherwise continuously supplied, it will be provided in sufficient quantity at the beginning of the work shift. Sufficient quantity is defined as enough to provide one quart per employee per hour for drinking for the entire shift. The frequent drinking of water, as described in the training section, will be encouraged.

Access to Shade

When the temperature exceeds 80 F° the company will provide access to one or more shade areas. Shade areas will be large enough to accommodate the number of employees on recovery, meal breaks or rest periods so that they can sit in a normal posture fully in the shade, without having to be in physical contact with each other. Shade areas will be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. Shade areas will also be either open or provided with ventilation or cooling.

When the temperature is equal to or lower than 80 F°, the company will either provide shade as described above or provide timely access to shade upon employee request.  

When infeasible or unsafe to have a shade structure, or otherwise to have shade present on a continuous basis, the company may utilize alternative procedures for providing access to shade. Alternative procedures will provide equivalent protection.

Heat Illness Prevention

High-Heat Procedures

The following high-heat procedures will be implemented when the temperature exceeds 95 F°:

  • Ensure that effective communication by voice, observation or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor when necessary. An electronic device, such as a cell phone or text messaging device, may be used for this purpose only if reception in the area is reliable;
  • Observe employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness. The employer will ensure effective employee observation or monitoring by implementing one or more of the following:
    • Supervisor or designee observation of 20 or fewer employees;
    • Mandatory buddy system;
    • Regular communication with sole employee (such as by radio or cellular phone); or
    • Other effective means of observation;
  • Designate one or more employees on each worksite to call for emergency medical services, and allow other employees to call for emergency services when no designated employee is available;
  • Remind employees throughout the work shift to drink plenty of water; and
  • Pre-shift meetings before the commencement of work must review high heat procedures, encourage employees to drink plenty of water and remind employees of their right to take a cool-down rest when necessary.

In addition, when temperatures reach 95 F°, agricultural employers must also ensure that their agricultural workers take a minimum 10-minute preventative cool-down rest period every two hours. The preventative cool-down rest period required by this paragraph may be provided concurrently with any other required meal or rest period.

Emergency Response Procedures

The company will implement effective emergency response procedures, including:

  • Ensure that effective communication by voice, observation, or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor or emergency medical services when necessary. An electronic device, such as a cell phone or text messaging device, may be used for this purpose if reception in the area is reliable. If an electronic device will not furnish reliable communication in the work area, the employer will ensure a means of summoning emergency medical services;
  • Respond to signs and symptoms of possible heat illness, including but not limited to first aid measures and how emergency medical services will be provided. If a supervisor observes, or any employee reports, any signs or symptoms of heat illness in any employee, the supervisor will take immediate action commensurate with the severity of the illness. If the signs or symptoms are indicators of severe heat illness (such as, but not limited to, decreased level of consciousness, staggering, vomiting, disorientation, irrational behavior or convulsions), the employer will implement emergency response procedures. An employee exhibiting signs or symptoms of heat illness will be monitored and will not be left alone or sent home without being offered onsite first aid or being provided with emergency medical services in accordance with these procedures;
  • Contact emergency medical services and, if necessary, transporting employees to a place where they can be reached by an emergency medical provider; and
  • Ensure that, in the event of an emergency, clear and precise directions to the work site are provided as needed to emergency responders.
heat illness prevention

Heat Illness Prevention

Working outside, you know that the weather can have an impact on your day. Hot weather, especially when combined with strenuous physical labor, can cause your body temperature to rise to unsafe levels. Normally, your body cools itself through sweating, but in hot and humid weather, sweating is not enough and the result can be a dangerous heat illness.

Staying Cool

Follow the suggestions below to stay cool when working in hot weather:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing when possible, along with a hard hat.
  • Take short breaks to rest in the shade. If wearing outer protective gear, remove during your break.
  • Gradually build up to heavier work.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself during peak temperature periods (midday).
  • Drink liquids frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty – at least eight ounces every 20 to 30 minutes. Choose water, fruit juice or sports drinks and stay away from liquids containing caffeine, which can dehydrate you.

Recognizing the Symptoms

There are three forms of heat illness, each with the following distinct symptoms:

  • Heat Cramps – severe muscle spasms in the back, stomach, arms and legs, which are attributed to the loss of body salt and water during periods of heavy perspiration
  • Heat Exhaustion – heavy sweating, cool or pale skin, nausea, headache, weakness, vomiting and fast pulse
  • Heat Stroke – high body temperature, sweating stops, red and often dry skin, rapid breathing and pulse, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, confusion or unconsciousness

Providing Treatment

It is essential to treat heat illness as soon as possible. If you are feeling any of the above symptoms, inform a co-worker and ask for help. If you suspect that a fellow worker has any of these conditions, follow the first-aid suggestions below:

  • Heat Cramps – Move the victim to a cooler area and allow them to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Exhaustion – Move the victim to a cooler area and keep him/her lying down with legs slightly elevated. Cool his/her body by fanning and applying cool, wet towels. If conscious, allow the victim to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Stroke – You or a bystander should immediately call an ambulance. Meanwhile, move the victim to a cooler area, remove any outer clothing, immerse him/her in cool water or apply cool, wet towels or cloths to the body. Do NOT give the victim liquids. If medical help is delayed, call the hospital for further instructions while waiting. Heat stroke is life-threatening, so it’s important to move quickly!

Safety Reminder

The risk of heat illness increases with age, poor diet, being overweight, insufficient liquid intake, poor physical condition and/or when taking medication. Never take salt tablets without your doctor’s approval.

Be aware of expected weather conditions each day so that you can be prepared with appropriate clothing and beverages. If you are on a job and start to feel any adverse symptoms due to heat, inform your supervisor and take a break.

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