On February 27, 2015 Cal-OSHA approved the much anticipated revisions to its Heat Illness Requirements. Despite the objections from a variety of employer groups, including construction and agriculture, the Standards Board adopted the requirements on a vote of 5-1. Based on a summary issued by the Cal-OSHA Reporter (2/27/2015 Vol24No.8) key elements include:
- Water must be fresh, pure, suitably cool and located as close as practicable to where employees are working, with exceptions when employers can demonstrate infeasibility.
- Shade must be present at 80 degrees, instead of the current 85, and accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods, and those onsite taking meal periods. There is an exception for infeasibility.
- Employees taking a preventative cool-down rest must be monitored for symptoms of heat illness, encouraged to remain in the shade and not ordered back to work until symptoms are gone. Employees with symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.
- High-heat procedures (which will remain triggered at 95 degrees) shall ensure effective observation and monitoring, including a mandatory buddy system and regular communication with employees working by themselves. During high heat, agricultural employees must be provided with a minimum 10-minute cool-down period every two hours.
- Emergency response procedures include effective communication, response to signs and symptoms of heat illness, instructions on what to do when employees exhibits severe heat symptoms, and procedures for contacting emergency responders to help stricken workers.
- Acclimation procedures including close observation of all employees during a heat wavedefined as at least 80 degrees. New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.
- New training requirements include employers responsibilities, employees rights, and appropriate first aid and emergency response.
It is anticipated that the new regulations will take effect as early as May, offering very little time to prepare and train. A joint letter issued on March 4, 2015, from five construction organizations (UCON, SCCA, CEA, NECA and CLC) to Juliann Sims, Chief, Division of the Occupational Safety & Health, have requested clarification on the revisions. A response is pending as of the date of this bulletin.