CalOSHA expands heat safety requirements

FRESNO, Calif.

The rules mirror those in place to protect farm laborers but extend them to other industries such as construction and landscaping.

Farm workers and others who work in the hot sun need to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water to avoid heat illness. Once the temperature reaches 85-degrees, Cal/OSHA requires laborers have access to shade when they take their breaks. Workers must also have cold water and a toilet nearby.

Henry Villalobos of Hall Labor Management said the heat wave is changing work schedules. Villalobos said, "If possible we start earlier, four or five. I know it's dark and what not so we do the best we can. I'd say 80-90-percent of our guys shut down today about 12 o'clock, 12:30 everybody shut down."

Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League says heat safety outreach through pamphlets and DVDs is now conducted in five different languages - Punjabi, Hmong, English, Spanish and Mixtecan, a language spoken by Oaxacans. Cunha said, "So we've had now, which is great, those handouts for those people to take with them and understand but this is the first time we've done this."

Cal/OSHA's new heat safety plan would include those who work in construction and landscaping.

Villalobos says expanding heat stress protection and education makes sense. "And they should. You have roofers out there. They're in the hot weather. Guys on air conditioning units on apartments and what not. Guys paving roads."

The Cal/OSHA heat safety revisions must still be approved by the Office of Administrative Law but they are expected to take effect this fall.

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