Heat Stress: A Seasonal Hazard



    McGuinty Government Urges Workers To Protect Themselves From Heat Stress

    TORONTO, June 5 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Hot and humid summer days bring an added danger - heat stress. Ontario
has tips and information to help employers and workers learn how to protect
themselves from this seasonal hazard.
    When heat is combined with other stresses like hard physical work, fluid
loss, fatigue or some medical conditions, it can lead to heat-related illness,
disability and even death.
    Heat stress can affect anyone, including the young and fit, and can be a
concern in many workplaces. Symptoms of heat stress can include: excessive
sweating, headache, rashes, cramping, dizziness, and fainting.

    QUOTES

    "As we approach the summer season, we can expect an increase in heat and
humidity which puts both indoor and outdoor workers at risk," said Labour
Minister Brad Duguid (http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/about/mn_bio.html).
"Employers and workers need to work together to be aware of the symptoms of
heat stress and put the necessary safeguards in place to protect themselves
against it."
    "Heat stress on the body is a very real health concern in some
industries," said Ilma Bhunnoo, Occupational Hygiene Specialist, IAPA
(Industrial Accident Prevention Association). "Employers and employees need to
be aware of the conditions that can lead to heat stress, how to recognize
symptoms and what steps can be taken to avoid heat stress-related illnesses."

    
    QUICK FACTS

    -   Workers most at risk for heat stress include those in hot
        environments, such as smelters, furnaces, bakeries and out of doors
        during the summer.
    -   Prolonged exposure to heat stress can lead to heat stroke, a life-
        threatening condition.
    -   The victims of heat stroke are often unable to notice the symptoms,
        and their survival may depend on co-workers' ability to identify
        symptoms and to seek immediate medical assistance.

    LEARN MORE

    Ministry of Labour Heat Stress Guideline
(http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/guidelines/gl_heat.html)
    Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Prevent Heat Stress
(http://www.wsib.on.ca/wsib/wsibsite.nsf/Public/PreventHeatStress)
    Go to the Prevention Dynamics (http://www.preventiondynamics.com/) website
and search under "heat stress."

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    BACKGROUNDER

                                 HEAT STRESS
    

    What is Heat Stress?

    Heat stress occurs when a combination of hot, humid conditions and
physical activity strains, and perhaps overcomes, the body's natural cooling
system. It can cause symptoms ranging from cramps and fainting to serious heat
exhaustion or even heat stroke. Heat stroke is a form of heat stress that can
kill quickly.
    Environmental factors that affect heat stress include air temperature,
humidity, air movement and sources of radiant heat such as working in the sun
or near large, hot objects. Work task factors that affect heat stress are the
physical demands of the job and the frequency and length of breaks.
    Heat stress can happen in many workplaces. Furnaces, bakeries, smelters,
foundries and heavy equipment inside workplaces are significant sources of
heat. For outdoor workers, direct sunlight is the main source of heat. In
mines, heat from surrounding rock and nearby equipment contribute to heat
exposure. Humidity in workplaces also contributes to heat stress.

    
    Symptoms of heat stress can include:

    -   excessive sweating
    -   headache
    -   rashes
    -   cramping
    -   dizziness
    -   fainting.

    What can workers do to protect themselves against heat stress?

    Some things workers can do to protect themselves from heat stress include:

    -   Drink lots of fluids to replace perspiration. Try to drink a cup of
        water about every 20 minutes
    -   Avoid working in direct sunlight (to reduce heat gain and risk of
        sunburn)
    -   Reduce the pace of work
    -   Increase the number of breaks and take breaks in cool or shaded areas
    -   Schedule heavy work for cooler periods
    -   Wear light-coloured and/or light-weight clothing
    -   Reduce the physical demands of work by using aides, e.g. hoists, etc.

    What can employers do to protect workers against heat stress?

    Employers have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers.
This includes developing hot environment policies and procedures to protect
workers in hot environments due to hot processes or hot weather.
    Some things employers can do to protect workers from heat stress include:

    -   Reduce the temperature and humidity through air cooling
    -   Provide air-conditioned rest areas
    -   Increase the frequency and length of rest breaks
    -   Schedule strenuous jobs for cooler times of the day
    -   Provide cool drinking water near workers and remind them to drink a
        cup every 20 minutes or so
    -   Assign additional workers or slow down the pace of work
    -   Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress and
        start a "buddy system" since people are not likely to notice their
        own symptoms.

    For more detailed information on heat stress, consult the ministry's heat
stress webpage at www.ontario.ca/heatstress and the Heat Stress Guideline at
www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/guidelines/gl_heat.html.

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For further information:

For further information: Susan McConnell, Minister's Office, (416)
326-7710; Bruce Skeaff, Communications Branch, (416) 326-7405

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