Cal/OSHA launches 2012 heat illness prevention campaign
April 12, 2012
• Opens Bakersfield enforcement office
• ‘Continued vigilance is absolutely necessary
California is launching its newest campaign against heat-related illness and death on a day marked by overcast and often rainy skies in the Central Valley.
But within weeks, temperatures could be pushing toward three digits.
Cal/OSHA launch was announced at its new district office in Bakersfield. The office will cover Kern and San Luis Obispo counties and result in quicker response time by investigators and a greater local presence, the agency predicts.
The annual heat illness prevention outreach, education and enforcement effort will involve coordinated statewide inspections, local inspections during heat waves, trainings and presentations to employer and worker organizations, and “a comprehensive public education campaign through print, radio and other media.”
“Despite the fact that heat-related incidents have decreased in California over the past three years, ensuring that California employers are taking every necessary precaution to keep their workers safe and healthy remains a top priority,” says DIR Director Christine Baker.
Cal/OSHA inspectors have already begun inspecting workplaces in the Imperial Valley, where temperatures have reached the high 80s. Employers must comply with heat standards by providing adequate water, shade, rest breaks, worker training and emergency preparations at outdoor work sites.
“We are pleased that years of continuous outreach, education and enforcement have resulted in fewer worker deaths and illnesses from exposure to heat,” says Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “But continued vigilance is absolutely necessary to ensure these gains continue. Basic things like ensuring that workers and their employers know the signs and symptoms of heat illness, that sufficient water, shade and rest are provided, and effective emergency procedures are in place at outdoor worksites, can make the difference between life and death.”
Last year, in the agriculture industry, Cal/OSHA helped train nearly 1,600 growers, farm labor contractors and their supervisors who employed more than 400,000 workers.
The focus on educating workers about heat illness prevention will continue this year by working with unions and training peer educators from worker and community-based organizations. This effort will be achieved through partnerships with the Labor Occupational Health Program (UC Berkeley), the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (UCLA), and UC Davis’ Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.
Last year’s campaign had more than 350 grassroots trainers from 117 organizations who then reached more than 8,700 workers.
In 2005, California was the first state in the nation to adopt heat illness regulations on an emergency basis. The regulations were made permanent in 2006 and there has been a marked increase in employer compliance since that time, the state says.
California’s heat illness prevention requirements were strengthened in 2010 to include a high heat provision that five different industries – agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation/delivery of agricultural products – must implement whenever temperatures reach 95 degrees.
These requirements include observing employees, closely supervising new employees, and reminding all workers to drink water throughout their shift.