LEX VINI

Employer Obligations for Heat Illness Prevention during Harvest

This weekend, the weather forecasters predict temperatures in Napa County will reach 108 degrees with parts of Sonoma County and Mendocino County topping 112 degrees.  Even in the early hours, agricultural laborers working harvest may be exposed to high heat conditions.  What follows is a quick refresher for those employers with outside work areas on their legal obligations for heat illness prevention. We encourage all employers to “over-deliver” when appropriate on these standards.

The Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to:

1. Provide fresh water.

Employers must provide employees with fresh, pure, and suitably cool water, free of charge. Enough water must be provided for each employee to drink at least one quart, or four 8-ounce glasses, per hour and the water must be located as close as practicable to the work area. Employers are also required to encourage employees to drink water frequently

2. Provide access to shade.

When temperatures exceed 80 degrees, employees must be provided shade at all times in an area that is ventilated, cooled, or open to air and that is as close as practicable to the work area. There must be sufficient space provided in the shade to accommodate all employees taking rest. When temperatures do not exceed 80 degrees, employees must be provided timely access to shade upon request. Employees should be allowed and encouraged to take preventative cool-down rest as needed, for at least 5 minutes per rest needed.

3. Have high heat procedures in place.

High heat procedures are required of agricultural employers when temperatures exceed 95 degrees. The procedures must provide for the maintenance of effective communication with supervisors at all times, observance of employees for symptoms of heat illness, procedures for calling for emergency medical services, reminders for employees to drink water, pre-shift meetings to review heat procedures and the encouragement of employees to drink plenty of water and take preventative cool-down rest as needed.

Agricultural employers must additionally ensure employees take, at a minimum, one 10-minute preventative cool-down rest period every two hours in periods of high heat.

4. Allow for acclimatization.

New employees or those newly assigned to a high heat area must be closely observed for the first 14 days of their assignment. All employees must be observed for signs of heat illness during heat waves. A “heat wave” is any day where the temperature predicted is at least 80 degrees and 10 degrees higher than the average high daily temperature the preceding 5 days.

5. Train all employees regarding heat illness prevention.

Employees must be trained regarding the risk factors of heat illness and the employers’ procedures and obligations for complying with the Cal/OSHA requirements for heat illness prevention. Supervisors must additionally be trained regarding their obligations under the heat illness prevention plan and how to monitor weather reports and how to respond to heat warnings.

6. Have emergency response procedures. 

Employers must have sufficient emergency response procedures to ensure employees exhibiting signs of heat illness are monitored and emergency medical services are called if necessary.

7. Have a Heat Illness Prevention Plan.

Employers must have a written heat illness prevention plan that includes, at a minimum, the procedures for access to shade and water, high heat procedures, emergency response procedures, and acclimatization methods and procedures.

For questions regarding California obligations for heat illness prevention, contact Valerie Perdue at vperdue@dpf-law.com or Greg Walsh at gwalsh@dpf-law.com.

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