The Heat Is On: Is Your Company in Compliance with State Sun and Heat Worker Protections?

30 July 2018 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog

With summer in full swing and heat waves sweeping the country, it is important that employers comply with any state regulations protecting employees who work outdoors from suffering from heat-related illnesses. Just last week, with the National Weather Service issuing excessive heat warnings for California, Cal/OSHA reminded all employers with outdoor workers to be mindful and to protect their employees by making sure they are in compliance with heat illness regulations.

California’s heat illness prevention regulation requires employers with outdoor employees to help prevent heat illness by:

  • Developing and implementing an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures
  • Training all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention
  • Providing drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least one quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so
  • Providing shade when workers request it or when temperatures exceed 80 degrees

California is not only protecting its outdoor workers from excessive heat, but has extended protections to indoor workers as well. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill, effective January 21, 2017, which directs Cal/OSHA to draft and propose heat illness prevention standards for indoor employees by January 1, 2019.  Manufacturing, shipping, and logistics companies, among others, should be aware that the Cal/OSHA board enforces its directives, for example having upheld citations against a warehouse operator after an employee was hospitalized for heat stroke.

Employers can face penalties in regulatory enforcement actions and could even face individual or class action lawsuits if employees suffer from excessive heat while at work. In 2013, California amended its Labor Code, giving employees exposed to high heat conditions the right to recover penalties against their employer for failure to provide cool-down periods. Employers are likely to face similar penalties if indoor employees are exposed to excessive heat starting in 2019.

While the national OSHA, under the Department of Labor, does not have a specific regulation that requires employers to protect employees in hot working conditions, employers do have a duty to protect employees from recognized hazards under the OSHA Act. Outdoor workers, such as construction workers, baggage handlers, agricultural workers, and landscaping professionals, can be at risk when the heat index rises. To help employers monitor the heat, OSHA created a heat index app. The app helps employees and supervisors calculate the heat index for the job site. After calculating the heat index, it displays a risk level for outdoor employees.

While California and Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention program is the first such program in the country, other states also have regulations in place to safeguard employees. In New York, the New York State Public Employee Sun Safety Law requires state agencies to provide sun safety information to employees who spend more than a total of five hours per week outdoors. Washington state also requires employers to address their outdoor safety program in their written accident prevention program.

With temperatures at all-time highs throughout the country, make sure your company’s outdoor workers policy is up-to-date and in compliance with your state’s regulations.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services

Insights