With high temperatures forecast in Prince George this week, WorkSafeBC is alerting employers and outdoor workers of the risk of developing symptoms of heat stress this summer. If left untreated, heat stress can lead to injuries from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In 2016, there were 16 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat exhaustion and heat stroke in B.C. The occupations with the highest number of heat stress-related claims last year included: truck and bus drivers, lifeguards, recreation sport and fitness leaders and motion-picture production assistants. In the Fraser – Fort George region, there were seven accepted claims for heat stress-related injuries from 2007–2016.
“Working outdoors when the temperatures are high poses health and safety risks to workers that employers need to recognize and take seriously,” says Barry Nakahara, WorkSafeBC Prevention Field Services Regional Manager, Prince George. “By law, employers are required to know if their workers are at risk by performing a heat-stress assessment and implementing a mitigation plan, when it’s necessary.”
Heat stress occurs when your internal temperature increases faster than the body can cool itself. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excess sweating, dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps. Symptoms of heat stroke include cessation of sweating, an increased breathing rate, confusion, seizures and even cardiac arrest.
Prevention of Heat Stress – Employers
Monitor heat conditions and require workers not to work alone
Ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place
Make physical modifications to facilities, equipment, processes to reduce exposure
Change work practices and policies to limit the risk
Determine appropriate work-rest cycles; when a worker feels ill it may be too late
Rotate work activities or use additional workers to reduce exposure
Establish cooling areas with shade and water
Prevention of Heat Stress – Workers
Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes)
Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric such as cotton
Take rest breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area
Do the hardest physical work during the coolest parts of the day, before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m.
Know your personal risk factors such as medications and any pre-existing conditions
Check the signs and symptoms for yourself and co-workers