Gateway Gazette

Live, Work and Play Safely in the Summer Heat

 

Whether the summer sun heats up your workplace, home or holiday, a few precautions can help you stay safe, keep the power on, and protect our forests.

Enjoyable as sunny weather can be, the heat can pose a hazard to people’s health and safety, and to our environment.

Alberta Health Services has issued 72-hour heat advisories across all zones, as of June 26. It is even more important to follow heat protection measures when advisories are in place.

The Alberta government wants to help all Albertans have a safe and happy summer. Knowledge is the best protection from the risks of very hot weather and our ministries offer a wealth of information to make the heat safe as well as enjoyable.

Know how to protect your family and yourself from painful sunburn, heat exhaustion, and more serious heat stroke that can be life threatening if left untreated. Be familiar with the symptoms, and be especially vigilant of those more vulnerable—infants, children and seniors, and people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Workers and employers need to take precautions to control or eliminate the dangers associated with working in the heat, such as heat stress. Report a workplace that is unsafe in the heat.

Wildfires can spread quickly in hot and dry weather and Alberta’s wildfire hazard is reaching very high to extreme levels. Check for fire bans. Know how to keep your campfire from becoming a wildfire and prevent your off-road vehicle from sparking a blaze. If you spot a wildfire, use one of Alberta’s reporting tools to help officials respond quickly.

While Alberta’s electricity supply is ready to meet the demands of summer, it is always a good idea to conserve energy. In the unlikely event of an electricity supply shortfall, Albertans may be asked to reduce their electricity consumption.

By following a few simple guidelines, summer can be a safe and healthy time for everyone.

Heat and your health

As temperatures rise, we are not yet acclimatized to hot weather. Our cardiovascular and sweating systems take a few weeks to adapt; many of us do not have home air conditioning and we may not be familiar with how to protect ourselves from heat. In 2013, there were 386 visits to Alberta emergency departments for heat-related illness; 80 per cent were in July and August.

Risks include sunburns and heat exhaustion, followed by more serious heat stroke, which if left untreated can be life threatening, especially among the most vulnerable. Symptoms include a high body temperature, lack of sweat, disorientation, fainting and unconsciousness. Particular vigilance is urged for vulnerable individuals, including:

  • infants and children
  • socially isolated or house-bound individuals
  • individuals with pre-existing medical conditions
  • individuals taking certain medications
  • outdoor workers
  • seniors

Here are simple measures you can take to protect yourself, your family and your neighbours:

  • drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated
  • do not leave any person or pet inside a closed vehicle
  • apply sunscreen of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 30, at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Be sure the SPF 30 screens out both UVA and UVB rays, and reapply frequently (as directed on product label)

Alberta Health Services’ website has more information, including on the 72-hour heat advisories in place across Alberta as of June 26. It is even more important to follow protective measures during an advisory.

Camping in the heat

The wildfire hazard in Alberta is reaching very high to extreme levels. Hot and dry weather means any new wildfires could spread quickly and dangerously.

Don’t let your campfire turn into a wildfire! Soak it, stir it, soak it until the ashes are cool to the touch. Riding off-highway?  Prevent vehicle hot spots from sparking a blaze.

Check for fire bans before heading out! There are a number of advisories, restrictions and bans at the municipal and county level.

Download the free Wildfire app for wildfire information in real time. Call 310-FIRE to report a wildfire. For information about wildfires, call (394-3473).

Working in the heat

Hot weather is a workplace hazard. It’s important for all workers and job providers to take appropriate precautions. Prevention is key!

Job providers must have a plan to control or eliminate dangers associated with working in the heat. They can:

  • provide plenty of cool drinking water
  • create a cooling station where workers can rest
  • schedule more physically demanding jobs for the cooler times of the day
  • change the work location to a cooler shaded area
  • allow workers to adapt to the temperature

Workers can drink lots of water, take breaks, minimize physical activity in hot environments, wear protective equipment designed to reduce heat stress and know the signs of heat stress so it can be treated right away.

The early signs of heat stress include:

  • headache
  • confusion
  • dizziness and fatigue
  • dehydration
  • heavy sweating
  • muscle cramps
  • changes to breathing and pulse rate

Report a workplace that is unsafe due to the hot weather, or call the OHS Contact Centre at 1-866-415-8690.

Conserving electricity

Hot weather can create extra demand on Alberta’s electricity system.

While Alberta has an adequate electricity supply to meet this demand, it is always a good idea to conserve energy. When possible, reduce power consumption by minimizing use of air conditioning and major appliances during the peak electricity usage hours between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

In the unlikely event of an electricity supply shortfall, the Alberta Electric System Operator will issue a provincewide request for Albertans to reduce their electricity consumption. This also will be shared through social media.

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