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This week’s heatwave in the Midwest, we wanted to share information about keeping your workforce safe. Last summer, Tuesday Training profiled the Heat Illness Prevention program created by Cal/OSHA, California’s statewide administration for worker safety. California remains a bellwether for heat safety because of the often very warm weather, a tremendously large workforce, and a progressive health and safety community.
The program that caught national attention covered work activities in outdoor environments and made important recommendations about rest, shade, and hydration. Here in Ohio, we are in the middle of a heatwave that will push temperatures close to 108 degrees. We hope that outdoor workers have kept the kind of heat safety standards pioneered by Cal/OSHA in mind for the duration.
And, a stretch of very hot weather also means that interior spaces can be made dangerous by extreme temperatures. Cal/OSHA is now setting another standard, acknowledging that indoor workplaces can be hazardous in very warm conditions. A set of new California regulations is pending that would apply many of the standards of outdoor workspaces to work that happens under roof.
Not all workplaces can be efficiently cooled by air conditioning, and in the summer, such spaces can become harsh environments. The California measure, if codified in January of 2019, will require employers with such areas to take steps to ensure safety from heat illness. The new standards will use 85 degrees as a temperature benchmark for most places when employees are present. Certain high-risk industries or places where on-the-job clothing may be constrictive (not easily allowing the body to ventilate) will have an enforcement point of 80 degrees.
As stated at Ehsdailyadvisor.com, employers would be required to provide access to water and cool-down areas, and to allow employees to acclimate to the higher temperatures before starting work. A Heat Illness Prevention plan would also be a part of each company’s safety and security practices, and that plan would include training that teaches employees how to protect themselves from heat-related injury and illness. Companies would also need to prove that they can respond properly to emergencies that may occur as a result of high temperatures.
The final legislation may be revised in some facets, but it’s likely to be incorporated into California law in some useful form and will no doubt be a reference point for other states or municipalities that wish to prescribe protection from high heat in any circumstance.
As summer heats up, EHS managers everywhere would be wise to consider how well-prepared they are to prevent and respond to heat injuries, regardless of any legislation. Many times, employees take their own health for granted in the face of high temperatures and decide that the best way to get clear of hot conditions is to work harder and get the job completed quickly. This attitude can be a deadly one. The need to work in great heat should be met with a very conservative approach – A slow effort with frequent breaks, retreats to shade or cool zones, and, most importantly, consistent hydration.
Findlay All Hazards helps companies of all sizes defend their workforce against every kind of hazard. If you need a plan for the protection and on-site custom training, talk to the All Hazards Training Center today.