If you’ve never been to the Central Valley of California (where my Modesto office is), one thing you’ll quickly realize in the summer is that it gets hot. Like 110 degrees hot. All the time. I was at the Modesto Home Depot the other day and came across this sign reminding employers to provide drinking water for their employees — and, of course, to do that with a water cooler from Home Depot.
I knew that California required employers to provide water, but I had never looked up what the precise law was. Having seen this sign and being a lawyer and very nerdy, I decided to look it up.
It turns out that it isn’t statute that requires employers to provide cooling water to employees, but rather that it’s a regulation. Specifically, it’s Title 8 Section 3395 of the California Code of Regulations entitled “Heat Illness Prevention” issued by the Department of Safety and Health within the California Department of Industrial Relations. Lawyers often cite this as “8 CCR 3395.” Under Labor Code section 6308 and 6317, the Department of Safety and Health — otherwise known as Cal/OSHA — has the authority to enforce Section 3395.
Section 3395(c) of Title 8 specifies what the providing of water:
“Provision of water. Employees shall have access to potable drinking water meeting the requirements of Sections 1524, 3363, and 3457, as applicable, including but not limited to the requirements that it be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to employees free of charge. The water shall be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. Where drinking water is not plumbed or otherwise continuously supplied, it shall be provided in sufficient quantity at the beginning of the work shift to provide one quart per employee per hour for drinking for the entire shift. Employers may begin the shift with smaller quantities of water if they have effective procedures for replenishment during the shift as needed to allow employees to drink one quart or more per hour. The frequent drinking of water, as described in subsection (h)(1)(C), shall be encouraged.”
Section 3395 also specifies the requirements for providing shade and for what employers need to do in high temperature situations when the temperature exceeds 95 degrees (aka daytime during the summer in the Central Valley). Training and education requirements are specified as well.
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