Does your team have a heat safety plan? Email
Tuesday, June 09, 2015 12:05 PM

Heat safety plans are vital to worker healthThe State of California has issued new regulations with regards to heat illness prevention, and it is possible that that these regulations may be eventually adopted nationally. With that in mind--and in the interest of the safety of your team--you should familiarize your supervisors and crews with information about safety in the hot summer months.

There are already regulations in place on a federal level from the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Following those regulations and using California's regulations as a guideline can help insure that your business will be in compliance and your employees will be safe.

In order to comply with the new California regulations, employers must establish and document “a Heat Illness Prevention Plan [which] includes the following:

  • Procedures for providing sufficient water
  • Procedures for providing access to shade
  • High-heat procedures
  • Emergency response procedures
  • Acclimatization methods and procedures

This plan must be available on the worksite in English and in the language understood by a majority of employees."

Federal regulations regarding safety in hot working conditions fall under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which states that workers are entitled to a workplace that "is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees." In other words, employers must provide employees with a work site that is free from hazardous conditions or activities that put employees at risk for death or serious physical harm (when there is a feasible method to eliminate such hazards).
There are multiple OSHA standards related to the prevention of heat illness:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) standards
  • Record-keeping standards involving work-related injuries/illnesses
  • Sanitation standards requiring access to potable water
  • Medical services and first aid standards
  • Safety training and education standards for construction

It all comes down to water, rest, and shade. It is recommended that you drink water every 15 minutes—whether you are thirsty or not. Take breaks in the shade. Wear light-colored clothing and a hat. Avoid synthetic fabrics that don’t breathe.

How can employers help workers stay healthy and safe in hot conditions?

  • Remind them to drink enough fluids (and have water available)
  • Schedule breaks with shade 
  • Know what to do in an emergency (and plan ahead)
  • Adjust work operations in extreme heat
  • Have new hires (and those returning to work after time away) build up gradually to full outdoor work 
  • Train all workers on the signs and symptoms of heat illness
  • Teach staff to monitor each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness

It is important to know that additional precautions may be needed beyond the heat index. Working in direct sunlight can add up to 15 degrees to the heat index. Employers must also consider risks for those working longer hours or performing more strenuous work. And don’t forget that PPE clothing can trap heat and increase the risk of heat-related illness.

National Weather Service (NWS) issues extreme heat advisories to indicate when excessive, extended heat will occur. Get the latest information at You may also get warnings of heat advisories and other summer weather dangers on your mobile device. You should keep those notifications enabled on your phone and heed the warnings when issued. NWS also offers a suite of heat safety resources.

OSHA has developed a Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app that allows workers and foremen to calculate the heat index for their work site and the risk level to outdoor workers. The app also features information about protective measures for each risk level. The app is also available in Spanish.

Additionally, OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention site offers many printable and downloadable tools, in English and Spanish, to share with your crew to insure that they are prepared in the summer months. There are quick reference cards, training guides, and even illustrated, low-literacy fact sheets.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
White House Pollinator Task Force unveils national strategic plan
Help your clients help out pollinators
PlantSelect offers resources for pollinator-friendly gardens and beyond
Education is key in protecting pollinators