Can You Correctly Answer Six Questions About Heat Illness Prevention?

Each year, thousands of workers experience illness—and dozens die—from jobsite exposure to extreme heat and humidity. As an employer, protecting the workforce from heat illness is a critical responsibility.

Jobsite planning, employee training and proper provision of shade and water are not only the right path to heat illness prevention, they’re also requirements of the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard. Employers in the state of California whose employees work outdoors must use this standard to establish a written heat illness prevention program. How familiar is your company with the prevention standard? Test yourself with a few questions.

Q: There are several types of heat-related illnesses. Which is most severe?
A: Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat illness, accompanied by symptoms like high body temperature, confusion and seizures—even death is possible if left untreated. Other types of heat illness include heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps and heat rash.

Q: What is the acclimation requirement for an employee newly assigned to a high-heat area?
A: Employees newly assigned to high-heat areas should be closely observed by a supervisor or designee for the first 14 days. Acclimation is typical in most workers between four and 14 days, assuming two hours per day of regular work in the heat.

Q: Under what circumstances may an employer use means other than shade as a cooling measure for employees?
A: The standard states that shade should be present when the work area reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When an employer—other than those in the agriculture industry—can demonstrate that a shade structure is infeasible or unsafe, they may use another method of equivalent protection (e.g., misting machines).

Q: How much water should be provided to employees each day?
A: Employees should be provided enough fresh, pure and suitably cool drinking water to consume at least one quart per hour. Water sources should be located as close as practical to the work area, and employees should be encouraged to hydrate frequently.

Q: When is it necessary to implement high-heat procedures?
A: Employers shall implement high-heat procedures when the worksite temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Procedures include employee observation and assurance of effective communication if symptoms occur, among others.

Q: True or false? Supervisory and non-supervisory employees should be trained to monitor weather reports and respond to hot weather advisories.
A: False. The standard requires that only supervisory employees be trained to monitor and respond to weather reports and hot weather advisories. Other elements of heat illness prevention training (e.g., risk factors, cool-down procedures, symptom reporting, etc.) are applicable to all employees, both supervisory and non-supervisory.

Remember, California employers should maintain an effective heat illness prevention plan in writing—both in English and any other language understood by the majority of employees. For more information about heat illness prevention and program planning, visit the Heat Illness Prevention Standard online or Cal/OSHA.