HEAT KILLS – Is Your Employer Doing Enough to Protect You?


OUTDOOR and INDOOR Heat Exposure Can Be Dangerous

Every year, thousands of people get sick from workplace heat exposure, and some cases are fatal. Heat illness is a serious medical condition that can occur when the body becomes unable to cope with heat conditions and maintain a safe internal temperature. Heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat rash, heat syncope (fainting), and heat stroke.

Heat Illness Symptoms: Know the Warning Signs: Heat exhaustion is a serious medical condition that requires prompt attention. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency that can be fatal without emergency care.

What Causes Heat Illness?

It’s not just the temperature. The biggest risk factors for heat illness include:

  • High temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, no breeze or wind.
  • Heavy physical labor.
  • New exposure and lack of acclimatization to heat conditions.
  • Low fluid intake.
  • Thick or non-breathable clothing.
Responding to Heat Illness

If someone shows signs of serious heat exhaustion or heat stroke, get help right away.

  • Call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, call 911.
  • Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.
  • Move the worker to a cooler and/or shaded area.
  • Remove outer clothing.
  • Fan and mist the worker with water; apply ice (ice bags or ice towels).
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink.
  • Preventing Heat Illness
Prevention Strategies: Water, Rest, Shade

When working in hot conditions, drink plenty of water, rest regularly and when you feel the need to, and rest in shaded or cool areas such as a breakroom to cool down and recover.

What Does My Employer Have to Do?

If you work OUTDOORS, you are covered under Cal/OSHA’s outdoor heat illness prevention standard, and your employer must, among other things:

  • Provide training on heat illness and employer’s prevention procedures.
  • Provide clean, cool drinking water free of charge.
  • When temperature exceeds 80 °F, provide shaded area(s) at all times for workers to sit in during breaks.
  • Allow and encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating.

In industries of agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation (including warehousing) of heavy materials, when temperature exceeds 95 °F, employers must also, among other things:

  • Observe employees for alertness and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Designate one or more employees to call emergency services.
  • Remind employees throughout the work shift to drink plenty of water.
  • Hold pre-shift meetings to review procedures, encourage water drinking, and remind workers of the right to cool-down rests.

If you work INDOORS, following general Cal/OSHA regulations, your employer must provide access to potable water and take steps to prevent and respond to heat illness. In indoor workplaces, employers have some flexibility on what measures to take, but they must do enough to reasonably protect workers from known heat exposure hazards. This might include best practices such as:

  • Provide training on heat illness and employer’s prevention procedures.
  • Reduce temperature with A/C, fans, or other air circulation.
  • Reduce exertion and exposure by slowing work, increasing breaks, or rotating workers through hot areas.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as cooling vests or towels.
Your Right to Speak Up and Take Action
  • You have the right to speak up to protect your health and safety on the job. It is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for making an oral or written complaint about unsafe working conditions or practices to your employer or Cal/OSHA.
  • If your employer is not keeping you safe, you can file a confidential complaint with Cal/OSHA (Phone: 833-579-0927; https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/Complaint.htm).
  • Contact a WWRC representative for help.