Tag Archives: Heat Illness

High Heat Warnings: How to Keep Outdoor Workers Safe

28 Aug

By Katie Culliton  August 18, 2020 33 Cal Chamber

As California experiences record-breaking temperatures — excessive heat warnings and watches have been issued throughout California, including Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and more — the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (commonly known as Cal/OSHA) reminds all employers with outdoor workers to take steps to prevent heat illness.

Heat illness occurs when the body’s temperature control system is incapable of maintaining an acceptable temperature; very high body temperatures can damage the brain and other vital organs, and may eventually lead to death.

Remember, California’s heat illness prevention standard applies not only to all outdoor workers, but also to workers who spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, like security guards and groundkeepers, or in non-air-conditioned vehicles, like transportation and delivery drivers.

To prevent heat illness, all employers with outdoor workers must:

  • Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures;
  • Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention, including the signs and symptoms of heat illness so they know when to take steps that can prevent a coworker from getting sick;
  • Provide fresh, pure, suitably cool and free drinking water to workers so that each worker can drink at least one quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so; and
  • Provide shade when workers request it and when temperatures exceed 80 degrees, encouraging workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes.

Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down, and workers experiencing possible overheating should take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade until symptoms are gone. Employers should make sure their workers know their procedures for contacting emergency medical services, which includes directing them to the worksite if needed.

Heat Illness and COVID-19

Although employers must provide cloth face coverings or allow workers to use their own to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it can be more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off if they’re wearing a face covering. Additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating. In Cal/OSHA’s high-heat advisory, it recommends that workers have face coverings at all times, but the face coverings should be removed in outdoor high heat conditions to help prevent overheating as long as physical distancing can be maintained. More resources are available on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention webpage and the 99calor.org informational website.

COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Claims on the Rise in California

Oakland – The number of California workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19 continues to climb, as data from the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) show that as of August 10, there were 9,515 claims reported for the month of July, bringing the total for the year to 31,612 claims, or 10.2% of all California job injury claims reported for accident year (AY) 2020. Those claims include 140 death claims, up from 66 reported as of July 6.

Updated figures for May and June show sharp increases in COVID-19 claims for each of those months, as the number of COVID-19 claims with June injury dates more than doubled from 4,438 claims as of July 6 to 10,528 claims as of August 10, while COVID-19 claims with May injury dates rose from 3,889 cases to 4,606 claims (+18.4%), indicating a time lag in the filing, reporting, and recording of many COVID-19 claims. Using claim development factors the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) projects there could ultimately be 29,354 COVID-19 claims with July injury dates and 56,082 COVID-19 claims with January through July injury dates. Health care workers continue to account for the largest share of California’s COVID-19 claims, filing 38.7% of the claims recorded for the first 7 months of this year, followed by public safety/government workers who accounted for 15.8%. Rounding out the top 5 industries based on COVID-19 claim volume were retail trade (7.9%), manufacturing (7.0%), and transportation (4.7%).

The updated data is included in the latest iteration of CWCI’s COVID-19 and Non-COVID-19 Interactive Claim Application, an online data tool that integrates data from CWCI, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the DWC to provide detailed information on California workers’ comp claims from comparable periods of 2019 and 2020. The new version features data on 710,224 claims from the first 7 months of AY 2019 and AY 2020, including all 31,612 COVID-19 claims from AY 2020. The application allows users to explore and analyze:

· COVID-19 claim counts by month with the ability to segment and filter results by industry, region, injured worker demographics and injury characteristics;

· The volume of all reported workers’ compensation claims by industry and region; and Denial rates for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 claims by month.

Keep Employees Safe: 7 Ergonomic Tips for Home

by Michele McGovern August 19, 2020

It’s great to work from the couch … except maybe for the aching back, tired eyes and sore neck. They’re nasty results of ergonomic sins we need to avoid.

And most brought home or picked up unsafe habits – ergonomically speaking – that have or will lead to unnecessary pain, discomfort and even injury.

More than 40% of employees work from home in some capacity since the onset of COVID-19, according to research from Stanford University.

The last thing you want is aching or injured workers who aren’t as effective or engaged.

“If you build the right culture, you can rely on what you already did well,” says Howard Spector, CEO of SimplePractice, an electronic health record and practice management software provider. “Start by taking good care of your employees and you can continue to do that under any circumstances.”

Whether work from home is temporary or long-term, employees need an ergonomically fit space. You’ll want to support healthy and safe work habits and practices at home, no matter how long they’ll be there.

Here are seven strategies to help keep employees working from home safe and healthy.

1. Make office benefits available

If employees already have ergonomically correct tools in their on-site workspace, let them get a hold of those for home.

To make sure everyone would be comfortable at home, SimplePractice gave employees time and space to go in the office and grab their chairs, keyboards and anything else that made their workspace comfortable.

You might set up a schedule so employees can be in the office alone and get items they can easily remove and adapt in their work-from-home space.

Ideally, everyone should try to replicate their workspace at home. If that means two screens, take them both home. If it’s an exercise ball for an office chair, grab it.

2. Set up computer, keyboard, mouse

If employees use a computer and keyboard primarily, it’s vital those are set up safely for comfort. If any piece – the keyboard, mouse and/or monitor – are out of whack, employees will likely end up with their necks or backs out of whack, too!

For the keyboard:

  • Position it at the edge of the desk, ideally using a palm rest for the wrists. Or get an adjustable keyboard tray to install below the desk surface.
  • Keep elbows at the side in about a 90-degree angle and shoulders relaxed while typing.

For the mouse:

  • Position it next to the end of the keyboard on the same level.
  • Add a wrist rest, if possible, so no one has to reach too far.

For the monitor:

  • Position it so the top third is eye level.
  • Stay centered directly in front of the monitor.

If employees use a laptop primarily you might want to invest in a few gadgets to make it more comfortable at a desk. You can get these for about $50 from Amazon and other retailers. Try a:

3. Set up the chair

Experts discourage people from working while sitting on a couch or easy chair … or anything other than a desk chair or one of its ergonomically correct alternatives.

Whether employees get their chairs from the office or they’re new, it’s important to make sure they’re set up well. Five keys:

  • Adjust it to a height where both feet rest firmly and evenly on the floor.
  • When seated, employees want two finger lengths between the back of their knee and edge of the seat.
  • Try to tilt your chair pan slightly forward for a comfortable slope. If the chair doesn’t have tilt capabilities, put a flat pillow across the back half of the chair for a natural tilt.
  • Adjust the seat back for a straight posture that mostly supports the space between the waist and the bottom of the shoulder blades. Or, if the seat doesn’t adjust, try a rolled-up towel to gain lumbar and back support.
  • Remove armrests if you primarily type to maintain good posture, experts suggest.

4. Light it up

Some people might say an upside of working from home is getting away from fluorescent office lighting. But home lighting has its own disadvantages: Too much natural light causes glares that lead to squinting and eye strain. Too little or ill-directed light causes strain, too.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggests employees:

  • Position their desks and monitors so windows are in front of and beside their desk. If there’s only one window, employees want it positioned to their right.
  • Adjust blinds so there’s light in the room, but none directly on the monitor.
  • Use indirect or shielded lighting from lamps where possible to avoid intense lighting in the field of vision.

5. Follow the 20/20/20 Rule

Once the logistics are worked, employees need to beware of greater eye and neck fatigue. It happens because people aren’t distracted as often by colleagues and meetings. Instead, they stare at the computer for hours.

To avoid fatigue, practice the 20/20/20 Rule: For every 20 minutes of staring at the monitor, look away for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away.

6. Switch it up

Eyes aren’t the only thing that get fatigued while working for long periods at a home office computer. The body also needs a change to avoid burnout.

If possible, experts recommend changing actual work spots and positions throughout the day. For instance, employees can do a few hours at the desk. Then they might put their computers on a kitchen counter and stand for a while. Weather permitting, they can take it outside later.

7. Break away

Employees can enhance good ergonomic practices by transferring healthy elements from the office to home.

For instance, Spector of SimplePractice wanted to make sure his employees had access to physical wellness when they had to leave behind the company gym and office exercise classes.

He partnered with a fitness app to provide yoga, fitness and meditation classes to all employees. SimplePractice also hired a mindfulness coach to help employees at their convenience meditate and handle work from home stressors.

Most Frequent Cited Violations by Cal/OSHA in 2014

13 Jul

The top 3 reasons employers received citations and penalties from Cal/OSHA in 2014 involved not having adequate written safety plans or heat illness prevention plans.  In fact, just these 3 areas, Illness & Injury Prevention plans for general employers and construction employers and Heat Illness Prevention plans for those with employees who work out of doors involved 30 % of all the 15,000 citation issued by Cal/OSHA last year.

Other frequently cited violations included: failure to have adequate lock out/tag out plans for employees performing maintance on equipment;  failure to report serious injuries or work related deaths to Cal/OSHA within 8 hours; and violations of respirator program due to airborne contaminants or violations of the hazard communications program relating to exposure to hazardous chemicals.

All employers, even with only 1 employee, are required to have an effective written safety plan known as an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. It is clear from Cal/OSHA activity that many employers need to catch up the requirements of this law for almost 38 years now. The requirements regarding a written heat illness plan for any employer with even 1 employee working out of doors have been in place for 10 years now, but significantly strengthened just this past May 1, 2015.

Any employer needing assistance with compliance with Cal/OSHA to with questions about Cal/OSHA or help with a citation from Cal/OSHA can contact Don Dressler Consulting at dondressler1@hotmail.com

California Laws Important This Summer of 2015

10 May

California continues to lead the way in expanding the rights of employees and obligations of employers in the workplace in many areas. This should come as no surprise to employers and HR since the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) extends protections to almost 20 protected classes and California provides employees with more than one dozen types of leave.
Here are areas that California employers everywhere should take note of as summer 2015 approaches:
1. Paid Sick Leave
Cities around the nation have been active in enacting paid sick leave measures but so far, only three states, including California, have passed paid sick leave laws. Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, covered California employers must provide paid sick leave to any employee working in California for 30 days at an accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
The law takes effect on July 1, 2015, and it is critical that all California employers be aware of its stringent recordkeeping, notice and posting requirements and update their employee handbooks and paid time off policies accordingly.
2. Abusive Conduct
Awareness of workplace bullying is on the rise, yet no state has enacted a law specifically addressing abusive conduct in the workplace. However, under a new California law that took effect on January 1, 2015, covered California employers required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors are now also required to include specific harassment training on abusive conduct.
Abusive conduct is conduct that “a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.” It may include “repeated infliction of verbal abuse… verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance.” The law does not create a private cause of action for abusive conduct, but it does require employers to revisit and revise their sexual harassment training to add an abusive conduct component. Don Dressler Consulting provides this training at your location for your supervisors and managers, as well as all employees, if requested.
3. Heat Illness
If you have any employees working out of doors, including truck or other vehicle drivers operating non-air-conditioned vehicles, the company must have a written heat illness prevention plan detailing how it provides training about heat illness, access to plentiful cool drinking water, cooling off periods for employees showing signs of heat illness, and emergency plans when illness occurs. Heat conditions can be a problem at any temperature, but specific rules apply at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and more stringent high heat rules apply at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Increased Protections for Immigrant Workers
With the US population becoming more diverse and immigrants entering the workforce at rapid rates, California has passed several measures in 2015 specifically providing increased protections for immigrants and foreign workers, including new laws:
• Prohibiting employers from reporting, or threatening to report, a worker’s (or the worker’s family member’s) immigration status or suspected immigration status to a government official because the worker exercised a right under the California Labor Code;
• Expanding the definition of an unfair immigration-related practice to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency;
• Prohibiting employers from discriminating, retaliating or taking adverse action against employees based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document;
• Making it a violation of FEHA for an employer to require an individual to present a driver’s license, unless a driver’s license is required by law; and
• Amending FEHA to specify that “national origin” discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of possessing a driver’s license issued by the state to undocumented persons who can submit satisfactory proof of identity and California residency.
To keep up to date with California law and to ensure you are in compliance, ask to be added to our The Bottom Line e-newsletter, produced by Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety.com.
You can sign up by sending us an email or going to our website at http://www.dondressler.com

Not Too Hot to Handle: Tips for Preventing Heat-Induced Illnesses and Injuries

28 Jul

Late July brings some of the hottest temperatures of the year around the country, certainly we are feeling it in Southern California. So it’s a good time for some refreshing refresher training on how your workers can beat the heat. Also, we have Cal/OSHA regulations requiring a written plan for dealing with heat illness, training, providing water and shade for all outdoor employees, including truck drives and dock employees.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) warns that heat-induced occupational illnesses, injuries, and reduced productivity can occur with excessive exposure to a hot work environment.

Heat-induced disorders include:

Transient heat fatigue,
Heat rash,
Fainting,
Heat cramps,
Heat exhaustion, and
Heatstroke.

Aside from these disorders, heat poses the threat of injuries because of accidents caused by slippery palms as a result of sweating, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Severe burns can also occur as a direct result of accidental contact with hot surfaces and steam.

NIOSH has assembled a number of handouts and other resources with information on heat-induced occupational illnesses, injuries, and reduced productivity, as well as methods that can be taken to reduce risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides helpful tips as to how individuals can avoid heat-related illness. That advice includes:

Take extra care of new employees, as they have not become “acclimatized” meaning their bodies have not adapted to working in heat. All of us need to adjust when temperatures or humidity rise suddenly.

Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him or her how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Drink a cup of water every 15 minutes during the peak working and hot times.

Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar: These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Cool off when needed, even a few minutes spent in shade or a cooler are can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Take a break in shade whenever feeling heat stress, even if it is only a short while. Do not wait until the official rest break.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:

Infants and young children
People aged 65 or older
People who have a mental illness
Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

Why It Matters

Heat illnesses can be very serious—even deadly.
Your workers need to know how to protect themselves from the heat both on and off the job.
As the summer wears on, workers may think they’ve gotten used to the heat and not be as cautious; continue to give them frequent reminders and brief training sessions all summer long to keep everyone safe.

Don Dressler Consulting can help you with writing your heat illness prevention plan, training materials, posters and other ways to keep your employees safe and OSHA compliant.

Just check our websites: http://www.dondressler.com and http://www.calworksafety.com

Heat Illness A High Priority for OSHA

23 Jun

While it is still too early to tell what the 2013 summer weather will be, we can look back on 2012 as the hottest year for California is recorded history.  Despite the hot weather last year, Cal/OSHA investigated 3 occupationally related heat deaths (but none in agriculture), but also 48 heat related illnesses.  Overall, Cal/OSHA conducted almost 3,900 inspections in enforcing its heat illness program standards.

Cal/OSHA issued 1,069 citations in 2012, primarily for lack of written plans to deal with heat illness (788), lack of employee training regarding heat illness (246) and lack of provisions of water (101).

All during 2013 Cal/OSHA will again be conducting vigorous enforcement, so employers need to be aware and prepared for compliance. Key requirements are:

1.       Water – 1 quart of water per hour per employee is the law.  Have the water as close to the employees as possible.

2.       Shade – available upon request. No more than a 2 minute walk from employees when the temperature is 85 F or higher, sufficient for 25% of employees to relax without sitting on the ground.

3.       Training – taught the dangers and symptoms of heat illness, BEFORE working outside. Informed of what to do when experiencing heat illness and how to summon emergency responders to work site.  Supervisors require additional training.

4.       High heat – when temperatures are 95 F or higher, frequently remind employees to drink water, observe new employees, maintain communications with employees.

For more complete information, see http://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/HeatIllnessInfo.html

You can also email DonDressler1@hotmail.com with any questions or for a sample heat illness prevention plan.

Time to Plan and Train for Heat Illness

11 May

Depending on where you live and work, you may already have experienced warm weather, and even heat alerts. Now is the time to plan for and train your employees about heat illness.
This is a legal requirement in California, Washington and a few other states, and was the 2nd leading cause for Cal/OSHA citations in 2012.
So what do you need to know and do?
#1- have a written plan to deal with heat illness for all employees who work outside, even if they only work outside a portion of their time. #2- train employees about the risks of heat illness, how to prevent heat illness and what to do about it; #3- ensure that employees know the importance of drinking adequate amounts of water and have access to water; #4- make sure employees recognize the signs of heat illness and have shade to rest to cover from the symptoms. Encourage them to respond to any signs of heat illness; #5- have plans for how you will respond with emergency medical help for employees who suffer heat distress; and #6- make sure your managers and supervisors receive training on heat illness, the importance of water, shade, and how to respond to signs of distress.
The early days on the job, and the first days of warm weather, particularly if the humidity is high, are the most critical. Employees need to “acclimate” to the heat conditions. Almost all heat illnesses occur on the first few days of hot weather or first days on the job.
For more specific training or information, email me at DonDressler1@hotmail.com for a free copy of a power point Heat Illness training program or visit the California Department of Industrial Relations website at: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatillnessinfo.html

New YouTube Video Available For Safety Training For Your Workers Regarding Heat Illness

20 Aug

The summer is not over, and employers have a continuing obligation under OSHA, particularly California employers under the Cal/OSHA heat illness prevention rules, to train employees about the dangers of heat illness and how to protect themselves. You have a new tool to help in that effort: an on line video on YouTube.com presented by Don Dressler Consulting and www.CalWorkSafety.com.

Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnrwrewOaGE.  This is a fast paced information packed video using power point material designed for your employees on the very first day on the job.

A “NO Vote” on AB 2346 Heat Illness – A Job Killer of a Proposal

25 Jul

This August, the California State Senate is considering AB 2346- a JOB KILLER bill regarding heat illness. The bill goes beyond current heat illness regulations to impose the following obligations, but only on agricultural employers, not on construction, landscaping or any other out of doors work:

  1. Each employee shall have continuous, ready access, as
    close as possible and at a distance of no more than 10 feet from
    where he or she is working, to fresh, pure, and suitably cool potable
    drinking water
  2. “The temperature of the water shall be 70 degrees or lower at all times.”
  3. “Shaded area shall be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working, and in no event shall be at a distance greater than 200 feet away from any employee.
  4. The amount of shade provided shall be enough to accommodate all of the employees on the shift at any time

Continue reading

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Heat Illness by Year in California

8 Jun

Heat Illness by Year in Califonria

2012 is reported to be the warmest year on record, according to the Weather Service. In California already this spring, two worker deaths could be attributable to heat illness. And summer is still about two weeks away.

In all of 2011, there were two confirmed heat-related fatalities. There also were two in 2010, Cal/OSHA says they are placing their “highest priority” on heat illness prevention. DIR Director Christine Baker said on a June conference call that many employers are complying with the Cal/OSHA rules designed to prevent heat illness, but the agency has seen evidence that other employers “are still not providing basic protections to workers.”

Cal/OSHA is partnering with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the Labor Enforcement Task Force will target both agriculture and construction.

The latest suspected heat illness cases involved construction and agricultural workers. On June 1 in Coalinga, a 56-year-old farm worker collapsed while pruning suckers from pomegranate trees in high-heat conditions. Emergency responders were summoned but he died at a local medical center. The worker was an employee of Temp Handbody Farm Labor Service of Riverdale, according to the Department of Industrial Relations. Continue reading