As we enter into the hottest months of the year heat stress becomes a larger hazard for workers in many professions. We have put together this post in hopes of giving you an introduction to heat stress (based on information gathered from the Ontario Ministry of Health) and to educate workers toward a safer environment in these hot summer months.
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.
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 4 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 work place. 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 air flow and keep employees cool. Light coloured clothing can also help as it does not attract as much heat from the sun.
Avoiding heat stress in the workplace is the responsibility of both the employer and the employees. Everyone can help to keep each other safe in the midst of the warmer months by making themselves aware of heat stress and taking the proper precautions to avoid this hazard in the workplace.
To read the complete guide from the Ontario Ministry of Health, visit their website here.