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California rules for beating the heat outdoors

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While California wrestles with how to control heat exposure in indoor environments, it has already experienced dangerously high temperatures for workers outside.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health released an advisory in late May urging employers to prepare for expected triple-digit temperatures in northern California. The agency said employers should revisit their Injury and Illness Prevention Program obligations and their emergency response procedures.

California has a mandatory outdoor heat exposure rule that went through a lengthy revision process before a final rule was crafted that included easy-to-follow steps employers must take to protect workers from outdoor heat exposure, said Benjamin Ebbink, a Sacramento, California-based attorney with law firm Fisher & Phillips L.L.P. It was passed after a cluster of heatrelated injuries and fatalities in 2005 in the state’s agriculture sector, Mr. Ebbink said.

California’s outdoor heat illness prevention regulations require employers to take four steps to prevent heat illness: training all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention; providing enough fresh water so each worker can drink at least one quart per hour and encouraging workers to do so; providing shaded areas upon request or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit and encouraging workers to take rests before signs of heat-related illness manifest; and developing emergency response procedures.

California is the only state that has created a mandatory outdoor heat exposure regulation. Most states encourage employers to take steps to protect workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues citations for heat injuries under its general duty clause.