British Columbia

High temperatures should put outdoor workers on alert: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC says employers and outdoor workers should be aware of the risk of developing heat stress during hot weather.

Warm weather records were broken in several areas of B.C. this weekend

Woman in mask walks along Water Street on a sunny day in Vancouver on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Temperatures across the province have reached new highs over the past few days. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

As temperatures hit new highs in the province, WorkSafeBC says employers and outdoor workers should be aware of the risk of developing heat stress during hot weather.

Barry Nakahara, the senior manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC, says it's important to pay attention to the impact heat can have.

"It only impacts us a few times a year in many of our areas, and so it's not something that's always front of mind with workers and employers," Nakahara said.

Heat exhaustion, which includes excess sweating, dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps; and heat stroke, which includes the cessation of sweating, an increased breathing rate, confusion, seizures and even cardiac arrest, are both major risks when doing work in the heat. 

Those at risk include people working in construction, roofing or near any other hot surfaces.

There were 38 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat stress in B.C. last year.

People working in construction, doing roofing, or working near other exposed hot surfaces are most at risk, says WorkSafeBC's Barry Nakahara. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Nakahara says these injuries are easily preventable and suggested different tips for employers and employees.

Tips for employers:

  • Employers should make employees aware of the risk, signs and symptoms. 
  • Monitor the conditions you're working within.
  • Where you can, limit work done in the heat. 
  • Modify workplace to provide more shade and cooling areas and provide water.

Tips for employees:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take rest breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area.
  • Do hard physical work during the coolest parts of the day, before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m.

He said if employees are concerned about their working conditions, they should contact WorkSafeBC.

"Our health and safety information line is open to workers who feel their employer is not taking the appropriate steps."

With files from On The Coast

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