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Outdoor workers benefit from 2005 California heat safety employment law

Farmworker (FILE)
Posted at 6:52 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 22:02:44-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As excessive heat heads our way, taking safety precautions is a necessity. In California, heat illness prevention laws go into effect whenever the outdoor temperature is over 80 degrees. Here in Bakersfield, the last time we had a high temperature under 80 degrees was June 18th.

California was the first state to have heat illness prevention and regulation laws enacted in 2005. These laws protect outdoor workers, those who work in agriculture, construction, landscaping, mail delivery, and oil and gas operations.

David Hornung, Heat and Agriculture Program Coordinator for CalOSHA, believes the heat law is saving lives.

"When these heat regulations originally came out we had about ten deaths a year from heat, and in the last few years we've only had one or two heat-related deaths, so we've definitely seen a decline in heat-related fatalities here in California with the passage of this law," said Hornung.

With extreme heat in the forecast, heat illness and heat-related deaths are more likely to occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that California is in the top category of heat-related deaths, averaging 49 to 221 deaths per year.

“For years and years and years, I would put this in global terms. We, all of us, have been trying to outrun Mother Nature, but it's clear Mother Nature has outrun us," said California Governor Gavin Newsom. "We are anticipating this extreme heat to be a length in duration, the likes of which we haven't experienced in some time. Yes, we're used to record-breaking temps, but this is an extended period."

According to the law, employers of outdoor workers must provide drinking water and shade over a large enough area to accommodate any employees on a recovery and rest period, another thing the law mandates employers provide. Employees must also monitor employees for the signs of heat illness: Headaches, nausea, heavy sweating or hot and dry skin, slurred speech, seizures, and fainting.

"And in this 110 degree heat that we're gonna see this heat wave coming in, it's really important that employers encourage their employees to take those cool-down rest periods to go in the shade and drink water," said Hornung. "If they don't, we're going to see a spike in heat illnesses across the state."

If you notice any of these safety laws not being put into effect in any outdoor workplace, you can contact CalOSHA by calling 1-866-924-9757, or visiting the CalOSHA website. Callers may remain anonymous.