As the weather in the GTA (finally!) gets warmer workers are more at risk for heat related illnesses caused by Heat Stress.
When the weather is hot our bodies must work harder to get rid of excess heat and our sweat does not work as well as a cooling agent.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat Stress occurs when heat is combined with other stresses such as physical labour, loss of fluids, fatigue, or existing medical conditions. This combination of extreme temperatures and other stresses on your body can lead to heat-related illnesses, disability, or even death.
Examples of Heat-Related Illnesses
Some examples of the illnesses that can occur are:
- heat rash
- heat exhaustion
- heat stroke
For more information on each of these illnesses including causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventions please visit the Ministry of Health guideline here.
How to Control Heat Stress
According to the ministry there are four ways to control heat stress:
1. Acclimation – the longer you work in a hot environment the easier it will be on your body.
You will become acclimatized to the environment over a period of time. In order to do this safely you must gradually expose yourself to the warm conditions more often over an extended period of time.
2. Engineering Controls – using machinery and other tools to avoid exhaustive work conditions.
This means taking advantage of any cases where machinery can help you do the job or can help to make a job easier. Using air-conditioning, increasing air movement, and providing workers with cool and shaded rest areas will also help to reduce the chances of heat stress.
3. Administrative & Work Practice Controls – employers play a large role in managing heat stress in the workplace.
Employers should: train employees to recognize the factors and symptoms of heat stress, increase the frequency of breaks, assess the workload and determine if certain jobs can be done on a cooler day, provide water to all employees, caution employees to avoid the direct sunlight, and slow down the pace of work.
4. Protective Clothing – wearing appropriate clothing in warm temperatures can greatly reduce the changes of heat stress on the body.
Wearing light articles of clothing can help with airflow and keep employees cool. Light coloured clothing can also help as it does not attract as much heat from the sun.
We can all work towards keeping ourselves and our co-workers safe at work if we stay informed and stay aware of the dangers of Heat Stress.
Ontario Ministry of Health, visit their website here.