June 13, 2023, (Winnipeg, MB) – The weather forecast is calling for another week of warmer than normal temperatures and humidity. While many Manitobans are ready to embrace the summer heat and enjoy longer days, if you’re working outside or indoors without air conditioning, it should also mean taking steps to protect your health. High temperatures and elevated humidity can lead to serious illness, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and in extreme cases, even death.
Hot weather conditions affect how well we regulate our body temperature. Hot air, sunshine, and hot surfaces increase our temperature as does high humidity. Combining these factors with physical activity causes our bodies to produce even more heat. Both workers and employers need to be aware of the risks of high heat and humidity.
“Both employers and workers can take measures to protect against the dangers that hot weather presents, preventing illness and avoiding lengthy work delays,” says Dave Kramer, Vice-President of SAFE Work Manitoba. “We recommend becoming knowledgeable about the signs of heat illness and aware of what is happening with workers as temperatures climb.”
Here are commons signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should move to a cooler place and drink plenty of fluids, preferably water.
– high body temperature
– heavy sweating
– rapid breathing and heartbeat
– skin rash
– muscle cramps
– extreme thirst
– confusion and lack of co-ordination
– dark urine and decreased
Heat stroke is a more serious form of heat illness with these signs and symptoms:
– very hot, red skin
– lack of sweat
– high body temperature
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, move to a cooler place right away, apply cold water to large areas of the skin and use a fan.
Employers can help prevent heat illness among employees by taking these steps:
– Remain aware of heat conditions at all times.
– Have a plan if employees are working alone.
– Create cooling areas that offer shade and water.
– Provide fans for indoor work in the absence of air conditioning.
– Set appropriate work-rest cycles ahead of heat waves.
– Have emergency procedures and first-aid coverage in place.
– Work with the safety and health committee, worker representatives or workers to create a hot weather plan and modify work procedures during high temperatures.
– Provide education and extra care for new workers who may not be acclimatized to working in the heat.
If you’re working in the heat, follow these safety tips to help prevent heat illness:
– Drink plenty of water throughout your shift, before you feel thirsty.
– Limit your intake of caffeine.
– Mist yourself with cool water.
– Take regular rest breaks.
– Whenever possible, do demanding physical work before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m.
– Take rest breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area.
– Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of a breathable fabric like cotton.
– Watch for signs and symptoms of illness in yourself and your co-workers.
For more information, visit SAFE Work Manitoba’s website to read the Guideline for Thermal Stress and Outdoor Heat Stress Tip Card. Learn more about the health effects of heat by visiting Manitoba Health.
SAFE Work Manitoba, a division of the WCB, is dedicated to the prevention of workplace injury and illness. Working with our partners in the safety community, we provide prevention education, safety programming, consulting, and strategic direction to create a genuine culture of safety for all Manitobans.