I own a local landscaping business. The employees on my crew usually bring bottles of water and wear hats, especially now that it is warmer. I am wondering what my obligations are to help protect my employees from heat related illnesses.


Employers are required by law to provide water and shade while employees are working outdoors. This requirement applies to the following industries:

  • Landscaping,
  • Agriculture,
  • Construction,
  • Oil and gas extraction, and
  • Transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction materials, or other heavy materials.

In addition, employers must supply at least one quart of drinking water per employee per hour for the entire shift. This equates to two gallons of drinking water per employee for an eight-hour shift.

If the outdoor temperature exceeds 85 degrees, employers must have and maintain shade that is open to the air or has ventilation or cooling. Shade must block direct sunlight, and cover at least 25% of employees on a shift at any time. Employees should be able to sit in a normal posture fully in the shade without touching. The shade must be as close as practicable to the work area.

Many employers use canopies or umbrellas to provide shade. You may not be able to rely on trees your crew is working on for shade unless the trees block direct sunlight. Hats would not meet the shade requirement. If the temperature is 85 degrees or cooler, employers must provide access to shade on request. At all times, employers must allow employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to avoid overheating.

When the outdoor temperature exceeds 95 degrees, employers are required to observe their employees and check for symptoms of heat illness. Heat illness symptoms include cramps, exhaustion, fatigue, nausea, headaches, excessive thirst, weakness, confusion or anxiety, drenching sweats, dizziness, agitation, vomiting, shortness of breath, increased body temperature, and fainting. Heat illness is a serious medical condition and can result in convulsions, stroke, and even death.

Employers are also required to give training to their employees about the risks of heat illness, the importance of drinking water, and procedures for contacting emergency medical services. Supervisors must also be trained on how to monitor weather reports and what to do when an employee has symptoms of heat illness. For additional information on how to prevent heat illness, go to

The rules regarding providing water and shade could be changing for agricultural employment. These changes would not apply to the landscaping industry. California Assembly bills on heat safety, AB 2346 (Farm Worker Safety Act) and AB 2676 (Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act), are currently on Governor Brown’s desk. AB 2346 would impose civil penalties for violation of the law and would allow agricultural employees to file lawsuits for violations of the water and shade requirements. AB 2676 would make it a misdemeanor for someone to direct an employee to perform outdoor agricultural work without water or shade.
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