With rising temperatures around B.C., WorkSafeBC has offered some advice for staying cool and avoiding heat stress while working outdoors.
WorkSafeBC said heat stress can lead to injuries from heat exhaustion and heatstroke if left untreated.
“With the hot weather, workers and employers need to be aware of the risks from sun exposure and heat stress,” said Barry Nakahara, Senior Manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC. “Heat stress is a preventable injury, yet last year in B.C. there were 26 accepted claims for work-related heat stress injuries.”
Heat stress occurs when a person’s internal temperature rises faster than their body can cool itself off. WorkSafeBC said symptoms include excess sweating, dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps. Heatstroke can be more severe, with symptoms including cessation of sweating, an increased breathing rate, confusion, seizures and even cardiac arrest.
To prevent this, employers are required to undergo heat stress assessments, and where appropriate, have a mitigation plan that provides education and training in recognizing the symptoms of heat stress and heatstroke.
WorkSafeBC advises employers to take a number of steps to make sure their workers are kept safe from the sun:
- Change work practices and policies to limit the risk.
- Monitor heat conditions and require workers not to work alone.
- 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.
- Ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place.
- Make physical modifications to facilities, equipment, processes to reduce exposure.
As well, workers can take a number of steps to ensure their personal safety on the job:
- Keep hydrated and 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 for signs and symptoms of heat stress.