B.C. is bracing for a dangerous, long-duration heat wave that will affect B.C. beginning Friday, June 25th and last until Tuesday. In hot working environments—indoors or out—everyone needs to be alert for the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and prepare in advance to reduce the risks.
Heat-related illnesses happen when a person heats up faster than they can cool down. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can quickly escalate into a medical emergency if untreated—but you can prevent heat-related illness in most cases.
Early signs include nausea, light-headedness, fatigue, muscle cramping, and dizziness. Heat-related illness can affect everyone – even those accustomed to working in the heat. If heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke, it is a medical emergency that, untreated, can lead to death.
Prepare NOW to prevent heat-related illness at work
|EDUCATE AND COMMUNICATE
- Listen to local weather forecasts and be aware of changes in the weather. Keep workers informed as well.
- Make workers aware of the signs, symptoms, and prevention of heat stress and heat stroke. Remind them where to get first aid, if needed.
- Prepare your first aid attendants for heat-related illnesses. Have them review first aid protocols to treat heat-related illnesses and check their inventory of supplies.
- Provide training in first aid, emergency response, and monitoring.
- Discuss heat safety precautions with your worker health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee. They can also recommend measures to protect workers and support effective communication with all areas.
- Provide access to shade and places to cool down – including air-conditioned spaces and cool showers.
- Provide access to fans for spot cooling, where appropriate, keeping in mind:
- At temperatures above 30°C, fans alone may not be able to prevent heat-related illness.
- And at temperatures above 35°C, particularly in dry conditions, fans can cause dehydration, increasing a worker’s risk of heat stress.
- Provide access to cool drinking water or permit workers to have a water bottle at their workstations.
- Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes and to drink BEFORE they become thirsty.
- Avoid scheduling workers outdoors as much as possible to avoid work in direct sunlight. Assign them to be indoors, in shaded areas, or air-conditioned areas.
- Modify work schedules to include frequent rest periods with water breaks.
- Consider adjusting hours so that more physically intensive tasks can be done at cooler times of the day—before 10 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. when possible.
- Avoid tiring or physically exhausting work outdoors without frequent breaks.
- Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing. Synthetic fabrics help the skin stay cool through evaporation.
- Consider offering protective clothing that provides cooling, such as air-cooled suits or ice-cooled vests, where practical.
- Provide access to broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and SPF 30 lip balm.
- Use sunshades for the windshield and windows to keep the sun and heat out of the vehicle.
- Remind workers how to cool down their vehicle after it has been sitting in the sun.
- Increase check-ins with workers in hot conditions to monitor heat-related illness signs and make sure they are keeping cool and drinking plenty of water.
- For employees working outdoors, implement a buddy system and encourage workers to watch each other for symptoms of heat exhaustion.
- Remember that workers who may be at greater risk (those with medical conditions or physical impairments) may need help to stay cool.
|KNOW YOUR RISKS
- Workers with pre-existing conditions such as COPD, asthma, or heart conditions are at greater risk for heat-related illness. Talk to your workers about health issues that may put them at more risk when working in the sun.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If a worker has signs of heat stroke, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.