Our warehouse is not air conditioned and on certain summer days the temperature gets very hot. Is there anything I should do to ensure the safety of my workers?
Employers should be weary if their employees are working in a very hot environment. Heatstroke is a serious condition which can even cause death. Employees performing manual or strenuous labour, especially in direct sunlight, are particularly at risk.
Employers are required by law to take the necessary measures to prevent accidents or injuries in the workplace such as heatstroke. Here are some ways this can be done:
- Educate employees on the risks of heatstroke and preventative measures to take, as well as the symptoms to watch for.
- When measuring the ambient temperature also consider the level of humidity, the heaviness of the clothing employees are required to wear and the type of work they are performing, which can all have an impact on the actual temperature and the frequency with which they should be drinking water. It is important to keep in mind that each employee will have a different resistance to hot temperatures for reasons such as health issues, medication, physical fitness, etc.
- Encourage employees to wear light coloured clothing, preferably a light cotton, as well hats with a visor to protect their heads and eyes if exposed to the sun.
- On very hot days assign employees to less labour intensive tasks, rotate employees doing labour-intensive work, assign tasks that can be done in the shade or by using equipment such as jiggers and forklifts to lessen the heavy lifting.
- Have cold water readily available and ensure that employees drink one glass every 20 minutes throughout the day, or as frequently as every 10 minutes in extreme heat. Insist upon this even if they say they are not thirsty.
- Give employees a break every hour in a shady or cool area.
- Avoid having employees work alone and ensure that your first aiders in the workplace are available to assist quickly.
- Act immediately if an employee is showing signs of heatstroke such as complaining of muscle cramps, headache, chills, nausea, dizziness or general discomfort. Bring them immediately to a shady or cool area wet their skin and provide them with water. If they are exhibiting more serious symptoms such as slurred speech, confusion or aggression, loss of balance, vomiting, partial or complete loss of consciousness, seek immediate medical attention.
”Since 2005, 4 workers died of a heatstroke in Quebec.”
– Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail
For more information please consult the detailed guide available on the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) website which includes tools to properly evaluate the level of risk of heatstroke, as well as a list of preventative measures employers should take.
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