Heat Stress June 22 2015

As we enter into the summer months, employers in Canada are becoming more and more concerned that their workers will develop heat stress due to rising temperatures. Exposure to extreme heat while working can lead to a number of occupational injuries and illnesses, including heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and fainting.

OH&S legislation in several provinces requires employers to take every precaution reasonable for the protection of workers in all circumstances, which includes paying close attention to the dangers related to heat exposure. Here are some tips that will help ensure your workers do not develop heat stress this summer:

  • Acclimatization: Allow your employees to take a week or two getting used to the heat by allowing their bodies to adjust. The longer they work in a hot environment, the better their bodies will adapt to the heat. This means progressively increasing their shift time in hot working conditions each day. So you may want to limit their shift time in hot working conditions to 50 percent of the shift for the first day, 60 percent for the second day, and so on. By taking this approach, your employees should be able to work full shifts in hot working conditions by the end of the first week depending on their health and age.
  • Administrative Controls:  Monitor  and  develop  strategies  for  coping  with  hot  days  and  hot workplaces; increase the length and frequency of rest breaks; ensure workers drink plenty of water (at least every 15 to 20 minutes); schedule physically demanding jobs for cooler parts of the day; train workers to recognize the signs and dangers of heat stress; and advise workers on the proper precautions they should take and clothing they should wear (i.e. PPE such as cooled vests or bandanas, hats, etc.)
  • Engineering Controls: Install air-cooling systems and fans for work areas and rest areas, as well as insulation and reflective barriers around machinery and furnaces. Also, attempt to provide shaded work areas whenever possible, and reduce the physical demands of tasks through use of equipment such as hoists.