Heat Illness Questions and Answers

May 19, 2011

CalChamber employment law experts held a webinar on the amended California heat illness prevention regulations that some employers must now follow. Webinar participants submitted some great questions about the current heat illness regulations, the training requirements and wage-and-hour issues.

Employers with outdoor workers can learn some valuable information from this Q&A document.

Training Details

Q: Does any organization provide certification for those people who conduct the training required by this regulation for employees and supervisors?
A: No entity provides certification. It is up to each individual employer to determine who will conduct training for employees and supervisors.

Q: What is the specific training content? How long is training supposed to take and what is the training frequency?
A: The regulations do not specify the length or frequency of training. The regulations require that employees and supervisors receive training before working outdoors. Other training requirements apply only to supervisors. Please see the regulations at Title 8, Cal. Code of Regs. Sec. 3395

Q: When the employees complete the training, how should supervisors document that? What are the legal consequences for not training employees?
A: You may use any method to record training. Suggestions include asking employees to sign in for the training, or put someone in charge of documenting the names of all those in attendance. Be sure to include information about the content of training, the date and time, and the name of the person or persons providing the training. Failure to provide the training may result in fines as well as increased liability if an employee is injured or dies as a result of the failure to train.

Worksite Issues

Q: Our employees constantly move from one location to the next. How do we make sure they have constant access to shade? Does someone have to follow them with canopies or something?
A: The heat illness regulations require that shade be as close as practicable to the area where employees work. Therefore, you would need to move the shade structure as the employees move from location to location. Shade can be provided by artificial or natural means, so if natural shade exists at a location, you might not have to erect artificial shade as long as the natural shade meets all the regulation’s requirements: Shade must block direct sunlight; it cannot expose employees to unsafe or unhealthy conditions; and there must be sufficient shade to accommodate 25 percent of your employees at one time, with room for them to sit down, fully in the shade, without being in contact with anyone else.

Q: Our employees work alone, with no supervision, and spend a lot of time going from one location to the next. What is a best practice to ensure that they drink enough water and take rest breaks as needed?
A: A communication plan or method is required under the regulations. One suggestion is to remind employees throughout the day. If you have the communications equipment to send voicemail or text messages to employees, you could start each morning with a message and then send reminder messages randomly throughout the day. Another suggestion is to ask a supervisor to make an unannounced visit to the site where the employees are working, if that is feasible. The supervisor can then remind the employees about frequent hydration and rest breaks if needed.

Q: Do the regulations cover employees who work in a warehouse that’s not air-conditioned?
A: The heat illness regulations cover only outdoor workers. However, employers must follow the temperature requirements set forth in the Wage Order(s) that applies to different types of businesses.

Federal OSHA

Q: Is the federal OSHA considering adopting this standard?
A: The U.S. Department of Labor announced that the federal OSHA is starting a national outreach program to educate employees and employers about heat illness. The federal OSHA did work with Cal/OSHA to adapt materials used in California for a similar program last year. Expect future emphasis on heat illness from the federal OSHA, which may include some new regulations.

Wage-and-hour Issues

Q: If an employee requires multiple rest periods, say five minutes every two hours, does the employee get paid for this time – in addition to the usual 10-minute rest periods?
A: Yes, the employee must be paid for any additional rest periods. Employees are entitled to two paid rest breaks of 10 minutes, during a normal eight-hour shift. If they need additional breaks for cooling down or drinking water, the time must be paid. ​​​​​​