Keep Outdoor Workers Safe from Summer Hazards

By Doris Lowell 

Each year, thousands of people in Canada die or fall ill from heat, sun, insect and poisonous plant related causes. If you have employees that work outdoors, it is your responsibility to take precautions to ensure that workers are safe.

Recommendations to help your workers to stay safe:

Heat and Sun Safety

  • Make sure your employees know how to recognize and respond early to heat illness symptoms.
  • Advise workers that they are not to ignore any discomfort or other symptoms they are experiencing, but must report these problems immediately to their supervisor
  • Train your workers in first aid
  • Acclimatize workers by gradually exposing them to work in a hot environment for  progressively longer periods
  • Allow workers to take frequent short breaks in cool shade
  • Provide cool water
  • Reschedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day
  • Avoid requiring excessive lifting, climbing, or digging with heavy objects in the heat
  • Have workers cover up with loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants; a wide-brim hat; and UV-absorbent sunglasses that block 99-100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Supply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 for workers to apply throughout the day

Insects and Poisonous Plants

  • Require or supply long-sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize skin exposure
  • Prohibit sandals or other open shoes; pant legs should be tucked into socks or boots to minimize skin exposure
  • Provide cloth or leather gloves, insect repellants and barrier creams to apply to exposed skin
  • Remind workers to take extra precautions when mosquitoes are most active (i.e., at dusk or at dawn)
  • Train workers on recognizing and avoiding poisonous plants
  • Make rubbing alcohol accessible, (it can remove the plants' oily resin up to 30 minutes after exposure)

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Extremely high core temperature of up to 106°F (41°C)
  • Hot, red, dry skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Headache
  • Confusion, strange behaviour
  • Possible loss of consciousness
  • Sweating has stopped due to a failure in his or her heat control system

Treatment of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. The heat stroke victim needs to see a doctor as soon as possible. Before aide arrives start by getting their core temperature under control.

  • Cool the heat stroke victim immediately
  • Remove them from the sun, immerse the body in cold water, such as a river, stream, or bathtub
  • If the victim starts shivering, slow down the cooling treatment, because shivering raises core temperature
  • Remove most of their clothes, douse them with water, and fan them vigorously
  • Wrap in wet sheets or wet their clothing to increase the rate of heat loss
  • If the person is conscious and alert, offer him or her water or other fluids - avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks
  • Watch for signs of respiratory arrest (breathing failure) and be ready to resuscitate

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Moderately high core temperature of up to 102°F (39°C)
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Possible fainting, but can be revived
  • Usually the person will be sweating profusely in an attempt to get rid of excess heat

Treatment of Heat Exhaustion
There's no need to rush to a hospital for a normal case of heat exhaustion, however heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke.  You should watch carefully for signs of deterioration.

  • Put the person in a cool place
  • Lay them down
  • Give small gulps of liquid every few minutes - "Sports" drinks are best but water is often more readily available

Keep your workers safe this summer!



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