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Protecting workers from heat-related injuries

On Behalf of | May 10, 2023 | Wage & Hour Law

If you work outside in California, the heat can be overwhelming, even in the winter. Therefore, employers must be proactive about helping their employees prevent heat-related health concerns.

Outdoor workers rights

Workers have the right to stay cool on the hottest days by resting in the shade as many times as needed and drinking cool water provided by their employer. Preventative cooldown rest breaks are required in addition to regularly scheduled rest breaks.  Employers cannot limit the number of cooldown rest breaks an outdoor worker decides to take. Outdoor workers that are not provided with cooldown rest breaks, in the shade, when they need it, are entitled to one additional hour of pay. Workers who feel that their rights have been violated can also contact the United States Occupational and Safety Administration, Labor Commissioner’s Office and the Division of Workers’ Compensation.


Employees must have access to at least one quart of water per hour on hot days. The water must be kept cold and placed close to their work area. Furthermore, employers must train employees before they start working their shifts to drink small amounts of water frequently when it is hot.


Employers must position shade structures close to employee work areas whenever the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. The structure must be large enough to shade all employees present and not require them to touch each other. Employees should be allowed to take rest breaks whenever they feel in danger of overheating and must be monitored for heat-related illnesses while cooling off.

Under wage and hour laws, agricultural workers must take a 10-minute rest break every two hours with additional rest breaks after the eighth and tenth hour if temperatures soar above 95 degrees and their employee requires them to work.


A written plan must be available for employees to read, showcasing that you are providing shade and water at a minimum. Supervisors must be trained on the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and report to their supervisor whenever they believe that an employee is getting too hot.

Employers are responsible for protecting outdoor workers on hot days. The government can fine them if they do not take this responsibility seriously.