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New OSHA Regulations on Shade and Water for Outdoor Workers

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 06, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Summer is almost upon us. And with that comes new regulations regarding outdoor employees.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is conducting a "Water Rest Shade" campaign to protect workers from sun and heat-induced illnesses, and new regulations went into effect on May 1. Here's how to comply with the law and keep your employees safe this summer.

Safe In the Shade

Whether your business is in agriculture, landscaping, construction, or even recreation, you've had to comply with OSHA regulations before. But there have been some recent updates you should know about.

OSHA is now requiring shade structures to be put up on days when temperatures hit 80 degrees. New regulations also increased the requirements for how much shade must be made available, from enough for 25% of the workforce previously to enough shade for your entire crew, if they are all on break at the same time.

In addition, outdoor employees must be given a ten minute break every two hours when it is above 95 degrees and employers are responsible for monitoring employees taking precautionary breaks to cool down for signs of heat illness.

Good Guidelines

OSHA also published suggestions on preventing heat illness:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty;
  • Rest in the shade to cool down;
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing;
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency;
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers; and
  • "Easy does it" on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

First and foremost, you're concerned with your employees' safety and well-being. But you also want to keep them at work (and not home sick) and you want to avoid any liability for heat wave injuries. Make sure you're familiar with OSHA heat stress regulations in your state, and that you comply with all workplace safety guidelines.

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