Protect Outdoor Workers From Heat Illness

As temperatures rise throughout California, Cal/OSHA is reminding employers to protect outdoor workers from heat illness and encourage them to take cool-down breaks in the shade.

Cal/OSHA is reminding all employers to protect their outdoor workers from heat illness and to encourage them to take preventative cool-down breaks in the shade as temperatures rise throughout California.

heat illness
OSHA recommends that on a hot job, workers drink a liter of water over
one hour, which is about one cup every 15 minutes. The agency’s program
stresses water, rest, and shade. (Photo: Electronic Library of Construction
Occupational Safety and Health /

“During heat waves, employers must closely observe their employees for signs and symptoms of heat illness,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “As always, workers should be encouraged to drink water frequently and take preventative cool-down rest breaks in the shade when they feel the need to do so.”

California’s heat illness prevention regulation requires employers with outdoor workers take the following steps to prevent workers from becoming ill due to excessive heat:

  1. Plan: Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  2. Training: Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  3. Water: Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
  4. Shade: Provide shade when workers request it and when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

Cal/OSHA urges workers experiencing possible overheating to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Workers who have existing health problems or medical conditions that reduce tolerance to heat, such as diabetes, need to be extra vigilant. Some high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications can also increase a worker’s risk.

In addition to the other requirements outlined in California’s heat illness prevention regulation, it is crucial that supervisors are effectively trained on emergency procedures in case a worker does get sick. This helps ensure sick employees receive treatment immediately and that the symptoms do not develop into a serious illness or death.

Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention special emphasis program, the first of its kind in the nation, includes enforcement of heat regulations as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Online information on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the Water. Rest. Shade. campaign site. A Heat Illness Prevention e-tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website