WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and outdoor workers about the risk of developing heat stress during hot weather. If not recognized and treated early, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
“Outdoor work increases in the summer months, and both employers and workers need to be aware of the dangers of sun exposure and heat stress,” said Barry Nakahara, Senior Manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC. “Last year in B.C., there were 38 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat stress — and these are preventable injuries.”
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.
To prevent heat-stress injuries, WorkSafeBC requires employers to conduct heat stress assessments. As appropriate, employers must have a heat-stress mitigation plan that provides education and training in recognizing the symptoms of heat stress and heat stroke.
Below are some measures that employers and workers can take to prevent heat stress.
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 hard 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