Hot weather a risk for workers

  • Jul. 31, 2017 10:00 a.m.

Temperatures are soaring and that puts workers at risk.

With temperatures forecast to hit 36 degrees in Vernon and Kelowna 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.

“Outdoor workers face many risks when the weather is hot,” said Dan Strand, WorkSafeBC prevention field services director.

“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 necessary.”

In 2016, there were 16 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat exhaustion and heat stroke. 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 Central Okanagan region, there were 17 accepted claims for heat stress-related injuries from 2007–2016.

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

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