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August 24, 2005 3:46 PM CDT

California Becomes First State to Adopt Heat Illness Standards

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On Friday, Aug. 12, California became the first state in the country to adopt heat illness standards to protect workers in outdoor occupations. The standards were developed in response to the deaths of 10 outdoor workers within 23 days this summer. The instances in question occurred predominantly in the agricultural and construction trades. A special session of the Cal/OSHA Standards Board heard more than an hour of public testimony, which included concerns from businesses that the standards are too vague, broad, costly, and place no responsibility upon employees. Despite these arguments, the board voted unanimously to adopt the standards as proposed.

The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) has 10 days to approve the standards, which will become effective upon OAL approval. As emergency regulations, they will remain in effect for 120 days and can be extended as the state works to adopt permanent regulations. An advisory committee is being formed for the task of developing permanent regulations that are likely to expand the heat illness standard to indoor occupations. Advisory committee meetings were anticipated to begin in September.
The four key provisions of the newly adopted regulations are:


  • Provision of Water — One quart of water per employee per hour shall be available throughout the entire work shift.
  • Access to Shade — Employees in heat distress or needing to take preventative measures shall be provided a minimum five-minute recovery period in a shaded area. Canopies, umbrellas and other temporary structures may be used.
  • Training — Employees and supervisors shall be trained on critical heat illness information such as risk factors; the employer's procedures to identify and respond to heat illness; types, signs and symptoms of heat illness; the importance of water consumption and other preventative measures; as well as procedures for contacting emergency medical services.
  • Planning — Requires the Standards Board to review the feasibility of providing shade for all rest periods at outdoor employment locations. Review deadline: January 1, 2006.


Several resources are available to provide more information, education and training materials. Visit Cal/OSHA at www.dir.ca.gov for standards and a guidance sheet; www.elcosh.org for heat training toolbox talk materials; or the Mason Contractor Association of America's (MCAA) Safety Library for heat illness information at www.masoncontractors.org.

If you have any questions about the new Cal/OSHA regulations, contact Julie Trost of the California Conference of Mason Contractors Association at 916-966-7666 or jat95628@hotmail.com.

For information on what's happening with heat illness on a federal level, contact MCAA's Director of Government Affairs.


About the Author

Julie Trost is the Executive Director of the Mason Contractors Association of California, Inc.

 

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