September 6, 2022
Californians working outside in the heat are protected by heat illness prevention laws whenever outdoor temperatures rise above 80 degrees F. With the recent heat wave spreading across California, it’s important for those working in agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation industries to know their rights and which protective labor laws apply to them.
Does Your Employer Provide Free Water?
According to the heat prevention standard from the California Department of Industrial Relations, free, fresh, pure, and cool drinking water must be provided “as close as practical” to all workers. However, when a continuous water supply cannot be made available, employees must receive enough water to last an entire shift/ at least one quart per employee per hour. Water must be cooler than the ambient temperature.
Do You Have Access Shade?
When workers operate outdoors in temperatures that exceed 80º F, employers in agricultural industries must provide and maintain shaded rest areas whenever employees are present if a source of shade is not readily available at the site. Employers in non-agricultural industries can provide alternative cooling methods such as misting fans.
While the shaded area can be outside, ventilated, or cooled, it must be large enough for workers to rest comfortably, protected from the sun, and without touching another worker. A worker must be able to cool off, so if the provided shade is in a car, it must be cooler than outside. When temperatures are below 80º F, shade must be provided if explicitly requested by an employee.
Do You Get Cool-down Breaks?
Employers are required to look for and intervene when workers show signs of heat-related illness. Not only should employers encourage workers to take rest periods, but employers must allow workers to take rest breaks in the shade for at least five minutes when they are at risk of overheating.
When temperatures exceed 95º F, a specific plan must be put in place to monitor workers for heat illness. Plans can include a mandatory buddy system or a designated person to oversee a larger group of 20 or fewer working outside in the heat. Additionally, in 95º + heat, workers are required to take a ten-minute cool-down break every two hours, regardless of having taken any five-minute (or more) rest breaks.
Employers are mandated to have a heat illness prevention plan documented in writing, both in English and in the language understood by the majority of the employees on the worksite.
How to File a Complaint?
The California Department of Industrial Relations stated on its site that it is unlawful for employers in the aforementioned industries to discharge or discriminate against outdoor workers for exercising their rights.
If your rights as an outdoor worker have been violated, file a claim by calling or emailing your Cal-Osha district office or the Cal-OSHA district office that oversees your job site; know that your name will be kept confidential unless you request otherwise. The CA Department of Industrial Relations has a complete list of information you’ll need when you contact your district office.
Contact Khanuja Law to refer a claim or request a free consultation.