The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health urged employers to heed the high temperatures that have been predicted and protect workers from excessive heat exposure. Temperatures are expected to reach up to 100 degrees in the coming weeks. Taking the necessary precautions can prevent heat illness, and yet, each year the state-regulated workers' compensation program receives benefits claims from workers who were not protected.
Cal/OSHA says the safety standards apply to all workers who spend substantial hours outdoors, including those in construction, landscaping and agriculture. Also groundskeepers, security guards and delivery drivers who spend many hours in vehicles without air conditioning are also a concern. The vulnerability of workers must be assessed according to their duties and the time they are exposed to high temperatures.
An effective, written plan to prevent heat illness has to be in place, including emergency procedures, and workers and supervisors must receive heat illness prevention training. Fresh, cool water must be available, and workers should be encouraged to drink at least 8 ounces per hour. Employers must provide shade or other areas where workers can cool down during frequent rest periods. Everybody should learn the symptoms of heat exhaustion, look out for co-workers showing signs of heat illness, and take action immediately if they notice telltale signs of this condition that could be fatal if not treated.
The California workers' compensation insurance system provides benefits to cover the medical expenses of workers who suffered heat-related illnesses. The claims process could be daunting, but the support and guidance of an experienced attorney can simplify the legal and administrative steps. Along with medical expenses, the benefits typically include a percentage of lost wages.