One of the new laws for 2014 is SB 435, which requires one hour of premium pay for an employer’s failure to provide additional rest breaks to serve as heat recovery periods for employees who work outdoors.  Cal-OSHA regulations require that employees who work outdoors in temperatures exceeding 85 degrees be allowed and encouraged to take a cool-down rest period of 5 minutes to avoid overheating.  Therefore, employers who do not comply with this regulation can be subject to claims for failure to provide rest breaks and/or to pay the one-hour premium for missed rest breaks.

The question that has come up for many businesses is whether this new law applies to their employees who may occasionally work outside.  For example, some of my hospitality clients want to know if the heat recovery rest break rules apply to employees who work an outside catering event, or to servers who work by the pool, or to an engineer who may do some painting or repair work outside.

While I originally posted back on February 24, 2014, that these heat recovery rules do not apply to the hospitality industry; I was mistaken. While the high-heat (over 95 degrees) Cal-OSHA heat recovery regulations only apply to certain industries (Agriculture, Construction, Landscaping, Oil/Gas Extraction, and certain Transportation/Delivery services), the remaining portions of the regulations apply to any business with outdoor employees when the temperature exceeds 85 degrees.

These regulations require employers to provide water and shaded areas big enough to accommodate 25% of the outdoor workforce, and to allow employees to take paid rest breaks in the shade for up to five minutes as needed to prevent over-heating. Other cooling measures, such as misters, can be provided in the employer can show they are as effective as shade.

Employers also have some to-do items arising from this new regulation including:

  • Add a heat recovery rest break policy to your employee handbook.
  • Add a heat recovery section to your IIPP (Injury and Illness Prevention Program).
  • Include in that IIPP a protocol for training managers who oversee outdoor employees to ensure compliance.

As summer approaches, employers should ensure that their policies are updated, and that their managers are trained on those outdoor procedures and apply them to any situation where employees are working outside in temperatures over 85 degrees in any industry.