New Employment Law Protects Employees from Heat Illness

November 13, 2013

Law-Protects-Employees-Heat-IllnessNew California Law Seeks to Reduce the Impact of Heat Illness in the Workplace

On October 10, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 435. This new law requires California employers to provide their employees with a “recovery period”.  The recovery period is a cool down period given to employees to prevent illness related to heat exposure.  The new law largely impacts California employees who work in the construction or agricultural industries.

Heat Illness in the Workplace

Heat illness is a serious medical condition that results from the body’s inability to cope with a particular heat load. Heat illness can cause heat cramps and rash, heat exhaustion, fainting, and heat stroke.  Symptoms for heat illness can include weakness, tiredness, mental confusion, or even irritable and erratic behavior.  The problem can also affect employees work performance and increase their risk of having accidents.  The California Department of Industrial Relations has reported numerous injuries, and even death, as a result of employers failing to properly develop procedures to protect employees from heat illness.

California Requires Employers to Protect Their Workers from Heat Illness

California regulations require employers to implement certain measures to prevent heat illness in the workplace.  For example, under California’s existing regulations, employees must have access to potable drinking water and be encouraged to drink water frequently.   Additionally, employees are allowed and encouraged to take a cool down rest in the shade for a period of no less than five minutes at a time when they feel the need to protect themselves from overheating.

Under the new California law recovery periods have the same protections as meal and rest breaks under the Labor Code.  Now employers who do not provide recovery periods for their employees must pay employees for an additional hour of work.  The new rule discourages employers from failing to provide their employees with proper recovery periods and is a step in the right direction toward increased workplace safety and employee health.

Has your employer failed to take measures to prevent heat illness in the workplace?

Gibbs Law Group LLP is currently investigating reports of employers failing to provide protections for employees at risk for heat illness. To speak with an employment lawyer, please fill out the form to the right or call toll-free (866) 981-4800.