Labor Series: Pt 5 ~ Cal/OSHA Sample Procedures for Heat Illness Prevention

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Photo by: Cal/OSHA

The checklist below was first published by Cal/OSHA in August, 2011.

Today our Labor & Worker Safety Series continues with tips on heat illness prevention! Summer in CA is heating up, which means farmers and ranchers need to think about how to avoid heat illness among their employees.

By law, CA employers with outdoor places of employment must comply with the Heat Illness Prevention Standard T8 CCR 3395. These procedures have been created to assist employers in crafting their own heat illness prevention plan, and to reduce the risk of work-related heat illnesses among their employees.

In working environments with an even higher than normal risk for heat illness (during a heat wave, or other severe working or environmental conditions), it is the employer’s duty to exercise greater caution and additional protective measures beyond what is listed below.

Remember this is not a one-size-fits-all guide. In order to implement these procedures in your operation, you’ll need to evaluate and consider the individual conditions present at your farm, such as the size of your crew, length of the work-shift, and the ambient temperature.


Procedures for the Provision of Water

  • Drinking water containers (of five to 10 gallons each) will be brought to the site so that at least two quarts per employee are available at the start of the shift. All workers, whether working individually or in smaller crews, will have access to drinking water.
  • farmer-drinking-waterPaper cone rims or bags of disposable cups and the necessary cup dispensers will be made available to workers and will be kept clean until used.
  • As part of the Effective Replenishment Procedures, the water level of all containers will be checked periodically (every hour, every 30 min), and more frequently when the temperature rises. Water containers will be refilled with cool water when the water level within a container drops below 50%. Additional water containers (five gallon bottles) will be carried to replace water as needed.
  • Ice will be carried in separate containers so that when necessary, it will be added to the drinking water to keep it cool.

See more water provision procedures.

Procedures for Access to Shade

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Mobile shade structure

  • Shade structures will be opened and placed as close as practical to the workers when the temperature equals or exceeds 85 degrees F. When the temperature is below 85 degrees F, access to shade will be provided promptly, when requested by an employee.
  • Enough shade structures will be available at the site to accommodate at least 25% of the employees on the shift at any one time.
  • Daily workers will be informed of the location of the shade structures, and will be encouraged to take a five-minute cool-down rest in the shade.

See more procedures for access to shade.

Procedures for Monitoring the Weather

  • The supervisor will be trained and instructed to check in advance the extended weather forecast. The work schedule will be planned in advance, taking into forecastconsideration whether high temperatures or a heat wave is expected. This type of advance planning should take place all summer long.
  • Prior to each workday, the forecasted temperature and humidity for the work site will be reviewed and compared against the National Weather Service Heat Index to evaluate the risk level for heat illness. Determination will be made of whether or not workers will be exposed at a temperature and humidity characterized as either “extreme caution” or “extreme danger” for heat illnesses. It is important to note that the temperature at which these warnings occur must be lowered as much as 15 degrees F if the workers under consideration are in direct sunlight.

See more procedures for monitoring weather.

Procedures for Handling a Heat Wave

  • During a heat wave or heat spike, the work day will be cut short or rescheduled (work can be conducted at night or during cooler hours instead).
  • 300x207_07060722_middletownctdoughockmanDuring a heat wave or heat spike, and before starting work, tailgate meetings will be held to review the company heat illness prevention procedures, the weather forecast, and emergency response. In addition, if schedule modifications are not possible, workers will be provided with an increased number of water and rest breaks and will be observed closely for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Each employee will be assigned a “buddy” to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of heat illness and to ensure that emergency procedures are initiated when someone displays possible signs or symptoms of heat illness.

See more procedures for handling a heat wave.

Procedures for High Heat

High Heat Procedures are additional preventive measures that your farm or ranch will use when the temperature equals or exceeds 95 degrees F.

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  • Effective communication by voice, observation, or electronic means will be maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor when necessary. If the supervisor is unable to be near the workers (to observe or communicate with them), then an electronic device, such as a cell phone or text messaging device, may be used for this purpose if reception in the area is reliable.
  • Frequent communication will be maintained with employees working by themselves or in smaller groups (via phone or two-way radio) to be on the lookout for possible symptoms of heat illness.
  • Employees will be observed for alertness and signs and symptoms of heat illness. When the supervisor is not available, an alternate responsible person may be assigned to look for signs and symptoms of heat illness. The designated observer will be trained and know what steps to take if heat illness occurs.

See more procedures for high heat.

Procedures for Acclimatization

The body needs time to adapt when temperatures rise suddenly.  Employees risks heat illness by not taking it easy when a heat wave strikes or when starting a new job that exposes them to heat to which their body hasn’t yet adjusted.

Inadequate acclimatization can be significantly more perilous in conditions of high heat and physical stress. Employers are responsible for the working conditions of their employees, and they must act effectively when conditions result in sudden exposure to heat their employees are not used to.

  • The weather will be monitored daily. The supervisor will be on the lookout for sudden heat wave(s), or increases in temperatures to which employees haven’t been exposed to for several weeks or longer.
  • During a heat wave or heat spike, the work day will be cut short (for example, cut at 12 p.m.), rescheduled (for example, conducted at night or during cooler hours instead), or – if at all possible – cease for the day.

See more procedures for acclimatization.

Procedures for Emergency Response

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  • Prior to assigning a crew to a particular work site, workers and the supervisor will be provided a map of the site, along with clear and precise directions (such as streets or road names, distinguishing features and distances to major roads) to avoid a delay of emergency medical services.
  • Prior to assigning a crew to a particular work site, efforts will be made to ensure that a qualified and appropriately trained and equipped person is available at the site to render first aid, if necessary.
  • Prior to the start of the shift, a determination will be made of whether or not a language barrier is present at the site, and steps will be taken to ensure that emergency medical services can be immediately called in the event of an emergency (such as assigning the responsibility to call emergency medical services to the supervisor or an English-speaking worker).

See more procedures for emergency response.

Procedures for Employee and Supervisory Training

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  • Supervisors will be trained prior to being assigned to supervise other workers. Training will include the company’s written procedures and the steps supervisors will follow when employees’ exhibit symptoms consistent with heat illness.
  • Supervisors will be trained on how to track the weather at the job site (by monitoring predicted temperature highs and periodically using a thermometer). Supervisors will be instructed on how weather information will be used to modify work schedules, to increase number of water and rest breaks, or cease work early if necessary.
  • All employees and supervisors will be trained prior to working outside. Training will include the company’s written prevention procedures.
  • New employees will be assigned a “buddy” or experienced coworker to ensure that they understand the training and follow company procedures.

See more procedures for employee and supervisory training.


The checklist above is an abbreviated summary of the procedures. For more details, view extended information in the Cal/OSHA site.

If you have questions about heat illness prevention procedures, or would like to know more about heat illness prevention trainings in your area, get in touch with Cal/OSHA.

If you happened to miss them, check out our other articles in the Labor & Worker Safety series:

If you’ve had to deal with heat illness, labor or worker safety issues, wages, interns or apprentices, let us know! We’d love to share your tips about what’s worked well for you in upcoming articles. Or, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment.

 Check out our Labor & Worker Safety ToolkitIf you have other great resources to share, get in touch!

3 Thoughts on “Labor Series: Pt 5 ~ Cal/OSHA Sample Procedures for Heat Illness Prevention

  1. Thank you for this great overview of Heat Illness Prevention!

    California Institute for Rural Studies together with UC Davis,is going into it’s 3rd year of surveying farmers in Kern, Stanislaus, Tulare and Fresno Counties as part of the California Heat Illness Prevention Study (CHIPS).

    The goal is to understand the physiological responses to environmental heat and physical work in inland valley field workers, and the socio-cultural influences that affect the workers’ behavior and therefore their risk of suffering HRI.

    Ultimately we want to use the study information to create improved HRI prevention strategies for both the employers and employees on farms. Field work started in the summer of 2012 and will continue in the summers 2014-2016. If you are a farmer in one of those counties and are interested in being interviewed, please contact me, Sarah, at scain@cirsinc.org The survey can be done over the phone and is completely confidential.

    • Eva Antczak on May 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm said:

      Hi Sarah,
      Thanks so much for your great comment! Your study sounds very interesting and we would love to help spread the word. I see you’re not a member of FarmsReach yet, but this is a great thing to share on our Conversation page – I think you may get some great responses. Sign-up is super easy and takes a minute. Let me know if you have any questions and I’d be happy to help.

      Thanks for reading our blog!

      Best,
      Eva

  2. I am a member, and I’ll post this on the Conversation page, thanks!

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