AS SEVERE HEAT WAVES BECOME MORE FREQUENT ACROSS CANADA, THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY OF THE SUMMER SEASON SHOULD BE A SERIOUS CONSIDERATION FOR EMPLOYERS
Heat stress can be particularly dangerous for employees working alone. The summer risks to outdoor workers may seem obvious, with many jobs requiring workers to be outside for extended periods of time including resource extraction, municipal maintenance, agricultural work, construction and roadworks.
Did you know that indoor work environments can be just as deadly?
Indoor workplaces such as bakeries, manufacturing facilities, and processing plants often experience dangerous temperatures during extreme heat events. Dehydration can happen quickly in a poorly-ventilated, warm and humid environment, and unfortunately many employers do not adequately monitor the conditions of their indoor facilities.
Along with monitoring worker locations and safety with a service such as CheckMate Working Alone and the Safe Alone app, employers are responsible for educating their workers about how to stay safe in hot weather.
Prioritizing safety monitoring and heat mitigation during the summer months is an excellent proactive practice, and employers should:
- For outdoor workers, evaluate working conditions and weather forecasts to identify upcoming extreme heat events. Planning for challenging weather enables employees to be prepared with the proper equipment and safety measures.
- For indoor workers, install monitored humidity and temperature sensors to easily detect when working conditions reach a threshold that indicates a safety concern. The early warning of a temperature alarm can prevent illness and costly downtime, ensuring that your workers are safe when inside your facility.
- Manage a worker’s activities and adjust as needed to suit the employee’s physical condition and the working environment temperature. This tip applies in winter work conditions as well and should be a year-round consideration of your safety program.
- Monitor lone worker safety and working locations and increase the frequency of safety checks during extreme heat events.
- During hot weather conditions, provide flexible work arrangements and schedule more labor-intensive tasks for cooler times of day.
While an employer can manage certain working conditions and monitor worker safety, it is also important to build a culture of safety within your workforce:
- Educate workers about heat illness, including how to avoid it, the symptoms to watch for, and what to do if a worker suffers heat stress.
- Encourage the use of sunscreens, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, hats, and UV sunglasses whenever possible.
- Encourage frequent hydration and rest breaks, provide water and air-conditioned rest areas.
It is especially important to monitor lone workers in hot weather because they are frequently apart from coworkers who may be able to assist in an emergency.
A timely response to heat stress can prevent more severe outcomes, and knowing where an employee is if they become ill enables their employer to provide prompt emergency care. Being prepared is the best approach to maintaining an operational business during challenging heatwaves and preventing dangerous conditions for workers whether inside a hot and busy facility, or outside enduring extreme heat conditions, should be a key seasonal focus of workplace safety programs.