The drought conditions in California jumped to extremes in January 2014, from 26 percent to 63 percent in the third week of the month, recorded by the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is the highest extreme drought in the state since the Drought Monitor began recording drought conditions in 2000. Winter temperatures are at record highs that haven’t been met since the late 1940s. Temperatures in mid-January 2014 got as high as 89 degrees in Salinas and 85 degrees in Santa Barbara. 2013 Summer temperatures in Death Valley reached record highs in mid-July between 126 and 129.9 degrees, some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in the United States. Other areas of the state endured dangerously high summer temperatures as well, although not the extremes reached in Death Valley. It’s temperatures like these that have prompted Governor Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 435 into law.
The Basis of SB 435
SB 435 is based on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention standard for all places of outdoor employment, including agriculture, construction, landscaping and oil and gas extraction. Also included are transportation and delivery of construction materials, agricultural products, and heavy items like furniture, lumber, freight and other industrial goods. Cal/OSHA defines strict standards for preventing heat illness when workers must perform their job duties outdoors in hot weather.
When the temperature in the outdoor work area is 85 degrees or higher, employers must encourage and allow employees to cool down in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel at risk of overheating. This is called a recovery period.
Compliance and Consequences
Employers must provide recovery periods for employees suffering from the heat or trying to prevent heat illness, communicate the Cal/OSHA regulation and train employees on it and provide adequate shade if there is none. Specifically, employers must provide enough shade to accommodate 25 percent of the employees per shift and the area must be located as close as possible to the work area. Shade means blocking direct sunlight and providing some relief from the surrounding heat, and it must be provided when the outdoor work area is 85 or more degrees. Employers must be able to prove they trained employees on the policy of providing shade for outdoor work areas and on written procedures, and they must provide training and attendance records to Cal/OSHA officials upon request.
The new legal requirements should be written into the company’s heat injury and illness prevention procedures and communicated to employees through training. The consequences for non-compliance are an hour’s pay for each workday the recovery period is not honored. This consequence can add up quickly in organizations with many employees who work outdoor jobs.
How HR Solutions Help
PAYDAY Workforce Solutions can help with guidance and assistance. We help you understand new legislation such as SB 435 and what you have to do to stay in compliance. We also provide effective time and attendance tools and other payroll-related assistance to help keep track of HR compliance efforts. We can help you understand and incorporate the new regulations into your illness and injury prevention procedures and assist with tracking employee training. Contact us today to find out more.