With summer temperatures on the rise, employers and workers need to take special precautions to stay safe when working in the heat.
What can start as heat stress can quickly become heat stroke, a life-threatening health condition. Knowing the signs of heat stress and taking action early can prevent a heat-related injury and even save a life.
“Heat warnings are active in many parts of the province. Albertans working outside, or indoors where there is no air conditioning, should take precautions against the heat. Employers also have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment and should be familiar with prevention strategies. Together, we can make sure everyone makes it home safe.”
~Christina Gray, Minister of Labour
The early signs of heat stress need immediate treatment. The first steps are drinking cool water to combat dehydration, and getting out of direct sun.
Watch for headache, dizziness, fatigue, heavy sweating, muscle cramps and changes to breathing and pulse rate. These symptoms can progress to heat stroke, which needs immediate medical attention.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to take all reasonable steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of their workers. Employers can:
- Provide sufficient cool drinking water.
- Create a cooling station where workers can rest.
- Reduce physical activity, for example, through extra breaks.
- Acclimatize workers by gradually increasing outdoor work.
- Try to direct work to a cooler, shaded area, or schedule physically demanding jobs for cooler times of the day.
Parts of the province are also experiencing poor air quality due to wildfire smoke. When conditions are smoky, employers can:
- Move work to an area where smoke levels are lower, or consider rescheduling work when air quality conditions improve.
- Alter the work to reduce levels of physical activity to decrease inhaling pollutants.
- Pay attention to public health warnings.
- Encourage workers to drink water and stay hydrated.
Workers can call Occupational Health and Safety at 1-866-415-8690 if they feel their workplace is unhealthy or unsafe due to hot weather or smoky conditions.
More information on local air quality conditions and health risks is available on Environment Canada’s website.