Question:  I have a small construction company and I recently heard about a new requirement for giving my workers breaks to cool off, on top of their regular breaks. Are there new rules to be worried about this summer?


Answer:  While heat-related “recovery periods” are nothing new in California, a new law makes the consequences for failing to provide these breaks more severe. With some hot weather already behind us, and a long summer ahead, now is a great time to make sure your company is fully in compliance with the rules and regulations protecting workers from heat related illness. Updating your written Heat Illness Prevention Program, providing training to supervisors, and making sure supervisors and employees follow your procedures will help keep your employees safe and minimize the risk of a lawsuit.
California has wide ranging laws and regulations in place to protect the health and safety of workers from the dangers presented by hot working conditions. These requirements are particularly relevant in our region with its large agricultural and construction industries, which often require work in the field, far from easily accessible drinking water and other convenient heat protections. Among the important protections for workers in hot environments are requirements that employers provide ample potable water (at least one quart per worker, per hour, for the entire shift), shaded recovery areas, emergency response procedures for heat-related illness, and training for employees and supervisors on following these regulations and procedures. Once the weather hits 85 degrees, failure to comply with these requirements can result in a serious citation from Cal/OSHA. If the temperature reaches 95, or is over 85 while your workers have a particularly heavy work load, violations can trigger an Order Prohibiting Use which can shut down your entire project.
Employees may request a “cool down recovery period” or CDRP. When a worker requests a CDRP, they must be relieved of all duties for a minimum of five minutes. A worker can ask for a CDRP as often as needed to prevent heat illness. Regardless of the temperature, if an employee requests a CDRP, that request should be granted.
You are probably familiar with the mandatory meal and rest periods available to your non-exempt employees. Effective January 1, 2014, employers can face the same penalties for failure to provide CDRPs as they currently face for failure to provide meal and rest periods. Failure to provide a CDRP when requested may result in a penalty equal to one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate.
In preparation for the summer heat, employers should make sure their Heat Illness Prevention Programs are up to date and provide training to supervisors. Employers should also revise the certifications on their time cards to state that employees have been provided the opportunity to take all meal, rest and CDRPs, or have notified their supervisor if they were unable to do so. Providing the cool-down periods to which your workers are entitled will protect your employees and your company.
For more information and training materials for supervisors and employees, visit