Preventing heat stress at work
Section 4.12 of the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Regulation covers thermal stress and states:
“When a workplace or work process exposes a worker to conditions that may create a risk to the worker’s safety or health because of heat or cold, an employer must implement safe work procedures and control measures to ensure that:
- the threshold limit values for thermal stress established by the ACGIH in its publication, Threshold Limit Value for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Indices, are followed; and
- the worker is provided with information, instruction and training in the symptoms of thermal stress and the precautions to be taken to avoid injury from thermal stress.”
Employers should “Beat the H-E-A-T” in order to comply with these regulations:
- Hazard identification
- Engage employees
- Avoid the hazard
- Treat incidents seriously
- Ensure that all employees are aware of the risks of heat stress.
- Provide training about heat stress prevention, identifying the symptoms of heat stress and what to do should workers identify the symptoms in themselves or others.
- Check the weather reports and humidex and schedule work accordingly.
- Have a heat stress response plan in place and train workers on the steps to take if someone is experiencing heat stress.
Encourage employees to look out for themselves and others. Although it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment and training on heat stress prevention and awareness, employees can play a part in keeping themselves and others safe.
Avoid the hazard
- Workers should take regular breaks from work in hot environments, especially if the work is strenuous. Breaks should be taken in cooler, shaded areas.
- Provide cool water for workers to drink – and remind them to drink it regularly to stay hydrated.
- In hot indoor environments, install air conditioning if possible or use fans to keep air circulating.
- When possible, avoid overexertion, extreme heat and humidity and sun exposure. If this isn’t possible, watch for symptoms of heat stress, wear loose and light clothing, try to do heavier work during cooler times of day, take regular breaks and drink plenty of cool water. And wear sunscreen!
Treat incidents seriously
- If a worker is suffering from heat stress, they will need to be moved to a cool area and given cool water to drink. They may need immediate medical attention.
- Follow up by investigating heat stress incidents. Address issues in the workplace which led to the incident and correct them.
If you’d like more detailed information, WorkSafeBC has an excellent guide for Preventing Heat Stress at Work.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also has a great infographic with simple tips to protect workers from heat stress.