My last blog covered heat stress and how it can effect employees and in worse case scenarios, cost an employee(s) permanent disability or their life. For business owners and/or management personnel who are not familiar with OSHA, there is a section in the regulations called the General Duty Clause. This is the catch all clause for potential violations for which OSHA has no specific standard. You may be saying to yourself, what does the General Duty Clause have to do with heat stress.
As an employer or manager under the General Duty Clause the standard states that “each employer shall provide a place of employment for employees free of known hazards which may cause injury, illness or death”. Since OSHA does not have a specific standard on heat stress, the General Duty Clause would cover this.
If you have employees working outside this time of year in the Arizona heat, the employer is responsible to make sure all employees have an adequate supply of water, get frequent breaks and can get under shade to take a break from the heat. Having an employee(s) suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke and ending up in the hospital is very expensive and could result in a citation and penalty from OSHA. Besides providing an adequate supply of water, shade and frequents rest periods, the employer must also train employees on how to recognize the hazards of heat stress, symptoms, how to prevent heat stress and first aid measures.
If your company does work in California, the State Department of Labor has standards on preventing heat stress to employees and they are enforcing the standard vigorously with 250 citations being issued and 8 job sites shut down since January of this year. The California statue states that employees working outside in the heat shall have one quart of water per hour per employee and access to shade.