It is HOT outside in 2023, with triple-digit temperatures hitting certain parts of California numerous times this summer in a seemingly never-ending series of heatwaves. As temperatures rise across the state, all employers should be aware of safety hazards that hot temperatures can bring for their employees. This is particularly important when employees work predominantly outdoors, as special regulations mandated by the California Division of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) apply.

First, Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention regulation applies for all outdoor places of employment such as those in the agriculture, construction, and landscaping industries. This regulation may also apply to leisure and hospitality workers, such as those who work in outdoor restaurants or pools, when outside temperatures exceed 85 degrees. The regulation mandates that among other things, California’s outdoor employers are required to take these four steps to prevent employee heat illness:

  • Training
    • Train all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.
    • Train all supervisors about specific procedures that must be implemented on “high heat” days (when the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit.)
  • Water
    • Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses, of water per hour, and encourage them to do so.
  • Shade
    • Where the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, provide access to shade and encourage employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down. These breaks should be paid.
    • Other cooling measures, such as misters, can be provided if the employer can show they are as effective as shade.
  • Planning
    • Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard and include them in your employee handbook and/or in worksite postings.

In addition to these Cal/OSHA mandates, employers are liable for up to one hour of premium pay for their failure to provide additional rest breaks to serve as heat recovery periods for employees who work outdoors.

Overall, outdoor employers should take the following precautionary measures to abide by the above rules and regulations and reduce potential heat illnesses:

  • 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 Cal/OSHA compliance.

For further reading and resources, please find Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention training materials for employers here. Please note that Cal/OSHA is currently developing a heat illness prevention regulation that will apply to all indoor places of employment. Not all buildings have air conditioning and temperatures indoors can also be unbearable, especially in workplaces like kitchens and factories. While those regulations are pending, best practices include similar types of planning for indoor heat issues, including implementation of fans, allowed breaks, and generous availability of water. We will provide an update and an alert about the regulation once it is finalized and in effect.

Remember, while many kids are back in school and summer vacations may be winding down, the hottest days in sunny Southern California are likely yet to come.