Summer is approaching rapidly, and it’s once again time to protect yourself from the sun! Though this change in temperatures comes yearly, that’s no reason to be complacent when it comes to heat-related emergencies and injuries! It might seem like a trivial concern to be worried about “a little sunshine” on the job, but afflictions such as heat stroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion are no laughing matter!
Even the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has its own legally defined temperatures to guide the continuation and stoppage of work. CCOSH recommends that you adjust your working time depending on the type of task and the outside temperature. This is especially important in open-air work zones such as construction, mining and other labour-intensive duties, where physical exertion can quickly raise your body temperatures and outdoor conditions cause dehydration. According to CCOHS guidelines, you should spend up to 50 percent of your time resting if you’re conducting heavy labour such as shoveling, digging and carrying in temperatures of at least 27.5°C.
You should also hydrate regularly and take note of medications you take. Most victims of heat stroke don’t even notice their own symptoms, so work closely with attentive co-workers. Check for various symptoms of heat-related emergencies such as:
- Muscle cramps (often in the legs and abdomen)
- Dizziness, fainting and lack of energy
- Reddened, pale (more so than usual) or clammy skin
- Rapid shallow breathing or hyperventilation
- Irritable, bizarre or aggressive behaviour
When confronted with these symptoms, immediately address the heat-related emergency and do the following:
- Drink plenty of cool fluids such as water.
- Apply sunscreen (with SPF 15 or higher) to prevent unnecessary sunburns.
- Avoid excessive outdoor work.
- Take cover in the shade.
- Wear light or loose clothing to maximize air circulation and heat dispersal.
- Use cool therapy packs when working under direct sunlight to keep body temperatures even.
These tips, combined with common sense, should help you and your workers deal with the threat of heat-related emergencies!