How to avoid heat-related illnesses when working in summer

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If you work in a:

  • bakery
  • food processing cannery
  • restaurant
  • laundry
  • farm, park or any outdoor location

You are at risk for heat stress especially during summer (UFCW Canada). Older workers, especially those with medical conditions or are under medication, are at a higher risk.

Heat-related illnesses and safety problems

A hot work environment can cause a variety of heat-related illnesses such as:

  • heat exhaustion
  • heat cramps
  • fainting
  • heat rash
  • transient heat fatigue
  • heat stroke

The chart below shows symptoms and first aid for workers showing signs of heat-related illness (from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Dept. of Labor):

Chart showing symptoms of heat-related illnesses and the appropriate first-aid response

Ways to avoid heat-related illness:

    7 ways to beat the heat, Canadian HR Reporter

  1. Avoid direct sun exposure – Do you job indoors or in the shade. Take breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area. Schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day.
  2. Don’t be afraid to sweat – It’s ok to sweat. It is the body’s way to cool down.
  3. Adjust to the heat – Don’t do hard work too soon. It takes 7-14 days for the body to adapt to a hot environment. Increase your workload gradually.
  4. Drink water – Drink water every 10-20 minutes even when not thirsty. Drink an average of one-litre every hour in hot conditions. Don’t drink coffee or alcohol.
  5. Wear appropriate clothing – Cover up when working outside. Wear loose-fitting clothes made of a light fabric that breathes. Wear a hat.
  6. Watch for signs of heat-related illness – Stop working when you feel dizzy, weak or light-headed. Check the table above to know other signs and how to ease the symptoms.
  7. Make an emergency plan – Your workplace should have a plan for first-aid and medical care. Always monitor conditions and heat levels.

Sources: Health and safety environment, UFCW Canada; Top 10 tips for handling summer heat, Western Farm Press; Heat-related illnesses and first-aid, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Dept. of Labor; and 7 ways to beat the heat when working outdoors, The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. All retrieved July 19, 2018.

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