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Employers required to protect workers from suffering heat-related illnesses

Due to its proximity to the ocean and mountains, San Diego has historically enjoyed a stable and moderate climate. However, temperatures of inland communities are often much hotter and, in recent months, the entire San Diego region has reported record-high temperatures. For workers in the construction and agricultural industries, working long hours in the hot sun can pose serious health risks.

According to California's Department of Industrial Relations, state employers are required to take steps to protect workers from suffering heat-related illnesses. Key elements in preventing these types of illnesses include establishing and following terms of a Health Illness and Prevention Standard, training workers and providing workers with adequate amounts of water and shade.

Employers are reminded of the importance of educating and training workers about the dangers and signs of heat-related illnesses. Workers should also be encouraged and reminded to report any and all signs of possible heat exhaustion or illness to a supervisor. Additionally, emergency procedures related to heat illnesses must be established and communicated to workers.

For workers exposed to heat and sun, providing ample amounts of water and shade are crucial to preventing heat-related illnesses and deaths. Employers must provide access to "cool potable drinking water" in amounts of "at least one quarter per employee per hour." Workers should also be encouraged to take frequent water breaks. Access to shade also greatly helps reduce the likelihood of heat exhaustion or stroke. Employers must maintain at least one shaded area large enough to accommodate at least one-fourth of workers.

In cases where a worker suffers a heat-related illness he or she may require medical attention and time off of work to recover. An impacted worker should also be entitled to receive workers' compensation and would be wise to contact an attorney to ensure he or she receives the maximum amount of allowable benefits.

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