Weather and thermal stress safety

Heat Stress and Safety

What causes heat stress?

Working in hot environments, outdoors and indoors, can affect the body’s cooling system. If the body is unable to cool itself, heat stress can occur. If not recognized early, this can quickly develop into more serious and life-threatening conditions. Physical exertion and outdoor activities increase this risk if precautions are not taken.

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What are the signs and symptoms?

As a worker’s body heats up it loses fluids and salt through sweat. As workers dehydrate they are less able to cool themselves down. Workers in a hot environment should be aware of these warning signs of heat stress:

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How to prevent exposures?

Training:

Heat Stress Awareness (online) – This course helps increase awareness of the risk factors for those potentially exposed to heat, the associated heat stress disorders, and controls/measures to protect against heat stress.

 

General guidance

  • Monitor heat conditions and require workers not to work alone.
  • Review risk assessments and specific safe work procedures, and adjust as necessary.
  • Communicate and review procedures with workers routinely.
  • Ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place.
  • Be aware of and check the signs and symptoms for yourself and co-workers.

 

Review the hierarchy of controls

  • Move tasks to cooler days, times (typically before 11 a.m.) or environments.
  • Change work practices and policies to limit the risk.
  • Make physical modifications to facilities, equipment, processes to reduce exposure.
  • Establish cooling areas with shade and water.
  • Determine worker’s acclimation status.
  • Determine appropriate work-rest cycles; when a worker feels ill it may be too late.
  • Rotate work activities or use additional workers to reduce exposure.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take rest breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area.
  • Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric, such as cotton.

 

Common Outdoor Guidance

  • Protect yourself from the sun by staying in the shade, avoiding direct sun mid-day, wearing a hat and protective clothing, using sunscreen, and wearing UV-protective eyewear.
  • Seek cooler, breezier areas when outdoors, such as large spaces with lots of trees.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly, even more than you think you need.
  • Take it slow with outdoor activities, rest and relax often if you feel fatigued.

 

Common Indoor Guidance

  • Make your space as comfortable as possible.
  • Close blinds and shutters during the daytime and open them at night if the space is occupied.  Open windows at night to let in cooler air if the space is occupied. Note: blinds, shutters and windows should always be closed if the space is not occupied to mitigate security risks
  • If you have air conditioning, use it to take the edge off indoor heat.
  • If you don’t have air-conditioning, take shelter in the coolest room in your home and use a fan. Blowing a fan across a pan of ice water can create a cool breeze.
  • Cool showers and misting yourself and your clothing with cool water will help keep you from overheating.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly, even more than you think you need.
  • Check in regularly with vulnerable people by phone or video.

 

Assessments

If you need assistance in determining ongoing heat exposure risks and evaluating the controls in place, please contact the Safety & Risk Services Occupational Hygiene Advisor (604-822-2029).

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What if someone is feeling ill from heat exposure?

Signs of progress to heatstroke should be considered a medical emergency where 911 must be called and first aid notified.

Typically for heat disorders other than Heat Stroke, the individual can be moved to a cooler environment and call first aid.

Additional support, resources, and references

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Cold Stress and Safety

What causes cold stress?

Cold stress can affect people working in cold or wet environments. Workers may show symptoms ranging from shivering to loss of consciousness. Severe cold stress can lead to hypothermia, which can be fatal. Cold stress can result from:

  • Naturally or artificially cooled environments
  • Wind, which pulls heat away from the body
  • Wet clothing, from sweat or water
  • Cold water immersion
  • Fatigue, which makes it harder for the body to create heat

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What are the signs and symptoms?

Cold stress can result in several health effects. Most cold related illnesses are gradual and workers may not realize they are in danger until it’s too late. Feeling cold is an important warning sign to note. If workers feel cold then their bodies are likely losing heat too quickly and controls may need to be considered.

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How to prevent exposures?

Training:

Cold Stress Awareness (online) – This course helps increase awareness on cold stress risk factors, cold stress illnesses, and cold stress controls against exposure risks.

 

General guidance:

  • Monitor cold conditions and advise workers not to work alone. By working in pairs, it is possible to prevent cold related illness from occurring if co-workers are educated in the signs and symptoms of the illness.
  • Review risk assessments and specific safe work procedures, and adjust as necessary.
  • Ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place.
  • Be aware of and check the signs and symptoms of cold stress for yourself and co-workers.

 

Review the hierarchy of controls:

  • Move tasks to warmer days, times or environments.
  • Change work practices and policies to limit the risk.
  • Make physical modifications to facilities, equipment, processes to reduce exposure
  • Establish heated warming areas/shelters/vehicle cabs
  • When required, determine appropriate work-warm up schedules; when a worker feels ill it may be too late.
  • Rotate work activities or use additional workers to reduce exposure. Stay hydrated, and limit the amount of coffee or tea.
  • Complete a warm-up prior to working to ensure that the joints and muscles are prepared for work.
  • Wear a warm head covering and layered clothing, and keep hands and feet warm and dry.
  • Consider the need for survival kits

 

Assessments

If you need assistance in determining ongoing cold exposure risks and evaluating the controls in place, please contact the Safety & Risk Services Occupational Hygiene Advisor (604-822-2029)

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What if someone is feeling ill from cold exposure?

If a worker exposed to cold shows signs or reports symptoms of cold stress or injury, the worker must be removed from further exposure and treated by an appropriate first aid attendant or a physician.

Note: If hypothermia or other severe cold related illnesses are suspected, call 911 immediately then first aid

 

Additional support, resources and references:

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