WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and workers about the risk of developing heat stress when working in hot weather. If not recognized and treated early, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In 2018, there were 38 accepted claims in British Columbia for work-related injuries caused by heat stress.
“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.
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.
Employers in B.C. are required 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, according to WorkSafeBC.
The agency offers a number of tips for employers in preventing heat stress. For example, they should monitor heat conditions and require workers not to work alone; ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place; as well as make physical modifications to facilities, equipment, processes to reduce exposure.
Changing work practices and policies to limit the risk and determining appropriate work-rest cycles can also be helpful. Another useful tip is to rotate work activities or use additional workers to reduce exposure and establish cooling areas with shade and water.
When it comes to workers, WorkSafeBc recommends that they drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes), wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric, 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. and that they know their personal risk factors (such as medications and any pre-existing conditions).
The agency also recommends workers check for the signs and symptoms of heat stress in themselves and their co-workers.