As seasonal heat waves continue, it becomes increasingly important for outdoor workers to take precautions against the heat.
The effects of working in extreme heat can range from general discomfort to heat stress. General discomfort can result from elevated daytime temperatures, making non-air conditioned buildings hot and uncomfortable. Some steps that can be taken to reduce discomfort when working indoors or outdoors during periods of peak temperatures include:
- using fans indoors
- wearing lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothing
- taking rest breaks and drinking cool beverages
- permitting less physically demanding activities during peak temperature periods and
- scheduling hot jobs during cooler times of day.
In more serious conditions, heat stress can occur, which is the body’s inability to control its internal temperature. Symptoms include heat illness, such as a headache, dizziness, upset stomach or vomiting; heat exhaustion, such as feeling tired or weak, having moist skin or a rapid, weak pulse; or, in its most serious form, heat stroke, which can result in hot dry skin, a rapid, strong pulse, mental confusion, unconsciousness, seizures or convulsions.
To prevent heat stress, you should:
- monitor yourself and co-workers
- take rest breaks and drink when you are thirsty
- wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
- work in the shade and away from other heat sources and
- build up tolerance to high temperatures.
If you or a co-worker is experiencing heat stress, you should:
- move the worker to a cool, shaded area
- loosen or remove heavy clothing
- provide cool drinking water and
- call 911 immediately.
Employers are encouraged to work with their safety and health committees, worker representatives or workers to prepare a Hot Weather Plan and determine work procedures appropriate for periods of elevated temperatures.
For further details, refer to the Safe Work Guideline for Thermal Stress http://safemanitoba.com/uploads/guidelines/thermalstress.pdf and Safe Work Tips on Heat Stress http://safemanitoba.com/uploads/bulletins/heatstress.pdf
Manitoba Health also has some additional information about working in the heat at http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/environmentalhealth/heatrating.html
More information is available by contacting Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health at 204-945-3744, or by visiting www.safemanitoba.com.
SAFE: Spot the hazard. Assess the risk. Find a safer way. Everyday.