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Cal/OHSA investigations of heat-related illness 2006.

Prudhomme-J; Neidhardt-A
Sacramento, CA: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, 2007 Oct; :1-20
On July 27, 2006, Cal/OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention Standard, T8 CCR 3395 (3395), became effective for outdoor workplaces in California. The purpose of this present report is to provide updated information about heat illness prevention from data collected during 2006 DOSH enforcement investigations of heat-related illness (HRI) cases. In 2006, Cal/OSHA staff conducted 38 investigations involving heat-related allegations and confirmed 46 HRI cases. The industries with the highest number of HRI cases were agriculture and construction, but cases occurred in several other industries. Despite the higher number of observed HRI cases in 2006, fewer fatalities were observed when compared with 2005. More serious HRI was again observed in Hispanic male workers, which may suggest a need to improve outreach efforts to this subset of workers. We continue to observe HRI cases occurring with extreme temperature but also across a broad spectrum of temperatures and environmental conditions. Over half of the investigations involve work tasks that were reported as strenuous. The combination of inadequate acclimatization and the significant environmental impact of an unusual heat wave in July 2006 contributed to the high percentage of HRI occurring from July 16th through July 28th. Acclimatization was found to be an important issue for both new workers and workers exposed to the added environmental stress associated with heat waves. Eighty-two percent of the observed HRI cases occurred during a period of potentially incomplete acclimatization. CCR T8 3395 requires employers to train on the importance of acclimatization; yet, this training was lacking in over 75% of the workplaces investigated. Only 8% of investigated workplaces addressed all required training elements of 3395, and supervisor training was lacking in over half of the worksites investigated where a fatality had occurred. Reported employer compliance with other requirements of 3395 identified additional areas to target efforts or enhance interventions. Water was reportedly available, but given that evidence for dehydration was present in 95% of the HRI cases, accessibility to adequate fluid may be limited by certain workplace constraints or structure of work activities. Shade was absent during work tasks in approximately 50% of the workplaces. The availability for shade during breaks was better (78%) but reportedly not always used. Emergency response protocols were not adequately described in over 80% of the investigated workplaces. HRI victims reported common HRI symptoms (weakness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, muscle cramps and unusual behavior), but reporting was not always timely. While it is encouraging that fewer workers died this year, many workers were still hospitalized and suffered multi-organ damage related to HRI. Our findings suggest that further prevention efforts are warranted in order to better protect CA workers against heat-related illness, and we have provided some specific recommendations to help accomplish this goal.
Heat-stress; Heat-exposure; Heat-exhaustion; Heat; Heat-stroke; Heat-treatment; Outdoors; Workers; Work-environment; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-health; Environmental-hazards; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Agriculture; Farmers; Construction; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Sociological-factors; Demographic-characteristics; Temperature-effects; Acclimatization
Janice Prudhomme, DO, MPH, State of California, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Research and Standards Health Unit 2211 Park Towne Circle, Suite 1 Sacramento, CA 95825-0414
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Cal/OHSA investigations of heat-related illness 2006
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Public Health Institute