It is summertime, and many people in California are spending time outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Many more people, however, work outdoors in the heat all day long and do not have the option to go indoors when it gets too hot. Agricultural workers, construction workers and others suffer workplace injuries due to the same weather that others enjoy in their off time or on vacation.
Employers are required to provide certain protections to their employees who work outdoors on a regular basis. In fact, Cal/OSHA mandates that companies with outdoor workers have a written safety plan for the heat and provide training to employees regarding heat illnesses. Items such as shade structures and fresh, cool water are to be provided to employees.
Supervisors and workers alike need to be aware that keeping hydrated is essential. Everyone should understand that water is the best method of hydration. Sports drinks may seem like a good idea, but they do not provide adequate fluid replacement and could be problematic for workers with health conditions such as high blood pressure.
Workers have collapsed and died due to the heat. It can be easy to forget that the California sun can be just as deadly as an equipment malfunction at a job site. When temperatures rise to the mid-90s, work schedules may even need to be adjusted in order to protect workers from the worst of the day's sun.
It may seem unusual to view shade structures and water as safety equipment, but during the heat of the summer, they are vital pieces of equipment for preventing workplace injuries. Workers have a right to a safe work environment, and that includes protection from the sun and heat. If a worker does suffer from a heat-related illness, workers' compensation benefits are normally available to cover medical expenses and lost wages during recovery.
Source: abc30.com, "Heat illness training offers helpful tips", Dale Yurong, June 24, 2014