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What are an employer’s obligations when working in high heat?

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2022 | Employee Rights

The weather this summer has been oppressive. The heat has been stifling, making it difficult for agricultural and construction workers, as well as others who work outdoors, to operate at peak performance. Working in excessive heat can also be extremely dangerous. In fact, several workers die each year due to heat stroke. Others fall victim to heat-related illnesses.

What can you do to keep yourself safe?

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to keep yourself safe while working in hot temperatures. Here are just some of the things that you can do to reduce your risk of being harmed while working outside in the heat:

  • Try to reduce the amount of time that you spend outside while increasing your recovery and rest time spent in a cool area, whether that be in the shade near a fan or inside in the air conditioning.
  • Educate yourself on the signs of heat-related illness.
  • Work under a buddy system so that you and other employees can watch out for signs of heat-related illness in others. This will ensure that any problems are quickly reported and adequate breaks are given.
  • Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of cool water to stay hydrated.
  • Try to improve your tolerance to heat by slowly getting acclimated to hotter conditions and improving your physical fitness.

All of that might sound doable, but a lot of Californians who work outside are concerned not about what they can do to protect themselves, but rather about what their employer may force them to do, even when the temperatures outside are excessive.

What obligations does an employer have?

Fortunately, there are state laws that seek to hold employers responsible for how employees are treated when they work in hot conditions. Under those laws, employers must ensure that they do each of the following:

  • Provide workers with free and consistent access to fresh water.
  • Ensure that workers have access to shade that can be provided whenever requested by a worker once temperatures reach and exceed 80 degrees.
  • Provide breaks meant to allow workers to cool down, in addition to regular breaks.
  • Create and adhere to a heat illness prevention plan.
  • Provide training related to identifying the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
  • Give guidance on what to do in the event of a heat-related emergency.
  • In some industries and under some circumstances, employers are required to regularly monitor employees for signs of heat-related illness.

Hopefully by being proactive in protecting yourself from oppressive heat and taking advantage of the protections offered by your employer, you can stay safe out in the heat. If, on the other hand, you feel like your employer has failed to provide you with statutorily required protection from heat-related illness, then you might want to consider taking legal action.

Holding your employer accountable

Taking legal action against your employer can be enormously stressful. After all, they’re usually experienced at handling the type of claim that you’ve levied against them while this may be your first foray into the legal arena.

But don’t let your employer’s confidence rattle you. You very well may have strong legal arguments on your side that will lead to a positive outcome. You just have to know how to competently build your case and aggressively present it. That’s where the help of an experienced employment law firm may come into play.

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