Written by Jackie Ellis, Exposure Prevention Specialist, Workplace Health

What can you and your coworkers do to make sure you’re working safely in the heat?

Workplace Health Incident/Injury Profile for May 2017

In May, there were 361 incidents reported to the Call Centre, with 100 accepted as claims.

Top Five Incidents
#1 Violence (21 per cent or 74 incidents, 12 accepted claims)
#2 Patient handling (16 per cent or 59 incidents, 24 accepted claims)
#3 Hit, struck, cut by (11 per cent or 40 incidents, 18 accepted claims)
#4 Slips, trips (9 per cent or 32 incidents, 14 accepted claims)
#5 Blood and body fluid exposures or needlesticks (8 per cent or 30 incidents, 12 accepted claims)

It might not feel like it, but summer is already here. For most of us, the long hot days are a welcome reprieve from the clouds and rain, but for others, working in warm conditions can be down right uncomfortable. What can you and your coworkers do to make sure you’re working safely in the heat?

Are you at risk of heat stress?

Heat stress is a term that refers to a group of disorders that can occur as a result of the body’s response to exposure to hot conditions and can occur if the body continues to gain heat faster than it can get rid of it. These disorders include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When managing exposure to heat, the goal is to maintain the body core temperature below 38oC.

In Fraser Health the risk of heat stress is very low, and likely only experienced by those doing manual work outside in direct exposure to the sun, or inside with several layers of protective equipment and without air conditioning. However, each person responds to heat loads individually and employees experiencing any symptoms of heat stress are encouraged to report them to their supervisor and the Provincial Workplace Health Call Centre.

What are the signs and symptoms of heat stress?

  • Heat rash
  • Muscular pain or spasms
  • Headache
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Nausea and faintness

When severe heat stress is experienced, individuals may be at risk for heat stroke, a potentially life threatening condition. Heat stroke signs include: hot, dry, mottled skin; mental confusion; and rapid breathing and pulse. Any worker exhibiting these signs must seek First Aid immediately.

How can you decrease your risk?

For areas without air conditioning a few simple steps can help reduce the risk of heat stress and make the working environment more comfortable. These include:

  • Drinking plenty of cool water.
  • Taking breaks in cool, air conditioned areas.
  • Using fans to increase air movement.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing as appropriate.
  • Plan strenuous tasks for cooler parts of the day.
  • Utilizing window blinds to restrict direct sunlight in indoor areas.
  • Conduct self-monitoring or use the ‘buddy-system’ to recognize signs and symptoms.

For more information on heat stress, refer to the Heat Stress Health Hazard Information Sheet or the Thermal Stress page on FH Pulse.

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