As many places in Canada are sweltering under a summer heat
wave, employers should assess the risk of heat exposure in their
workplace and, where appropriate, develop and implement workplace
policies to reduce the risk of illness or injuries relating to heat
stress. Most Canadian provinces have enacted specific regulatory
requirements to combat thermal stress arising from extreme heat or
cold. However, even in those provinces where no specific regulatory
requirement exists relating to thermal stress (for example, like in
Ontario and Alberta), an employer still has an obligation to
prevent heat stress in the workplace as part of its general duty to
protect the health and safety of its workers.
Although a number of manufacturing activities can expose workers
to heat year-round, incidents of workplace heat exposure and heat
stress clearly increase in the summer, particularly where employees
are engaged in outdoor work activities. If there is a risk of
excess heat exposure in the workplace, an employer is well-advised
to take the following steps to prevent heat stress:
Train supervisors and workers to recognize early signs and
symptoms of heat stress in themselves and their co-workers,
including excessive sweating, dizziness and nausea
Where working in hot environments, arrange work schedules to
permit employees to become acclimatized to heat
Provide adequate supervision and don't allow individuals to
work alone in conditions where heat stress is a legitimate
Determine appropriate work-rest cycles that allow time for
workers to cool down
Provide shaded or well-ventilated areas for breaks and rests
and, where appropriate, reduce temperature and humidity through air
Schedule more physically demanding work at cooler times of the
day and, where possible, rotate work activities to reduce heat
Make cool drinking water available and remind workers to drink
water regularly to stay hydrated (i.e. approximately 250 mL of
water every 20 minutes)
When working outdoors, remind workers to wear light-coloured,
loose-fitting clothing that is breathable
Encourage workers to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and
keep their heads covered to reduce direct exposure to the sun when
If you suspect that a worker is suffering from heat stress,
move him or her to a cool, shaded area, provide the worker with
water and appropriate first aid
There are a number of helpful on-line resources to help
employers develop workplace policies and programs to combat heat
stress in the workplace. For more information on preventing heat
stress in the workplace, employers are encouraged to take a look at
the following publications:
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