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Five ways to prevent heat stress

Heat stress occurs anytime the body temperature rises, and the body cannot cool itself.
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Working in the intense heat of the summer sun can put workers at risk of heat stress, but heat stress can also hit you in environments you wouldn't expect.

Heat stress occurs anytime the body temperature rises, and the body cannot cool itself. This can be a result of the climate, exposure to radiant heat or when a job requires work in, around or with hot equipment; even jobs carried out in air-conditioned environments.

Convenience store staff, gas station attendants or car wash operators may work outside moving product, pumping gas, etc., as well as inside.  This back and forth between an air-conditioned environment and the hot outdoors can also impact the body’s ability to cool itself.

Signs and symptoms

There are many ways to keep workers safe from heat stress. It's important to train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms so that they can take action to assist themselves, coworkers and even customers.

 If suffering from heat stress, you may experience the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Light headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble focusing
  • Excessive sweating

Left unchecked, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other physical health effects. Plus, it can be damaging to business, by way of lost productivity, disability costs, and fines and penalties.

How to prevent heat stress

Heat stress is a well-recognized hazard that can be prevented through a combination of engineering and administrative controls. Here are five effective prevention tips: 

  1. Wear cotton or other loose woven fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin. As soon as you allow that evaporation, you're cooling the body.  Remember safety or protective clothing are still required including high visibility clothing, and other PPE.  

  2. Make watering stations available for employees. Small quantities of cool (not cold) liquid prevent will dehydration and maintain the body's ability to sweat and cool itself.

  3. Train workers, supervisors and managers to recognize signs of heat stress. You may not be aware you're suffering heat stress, but others can and should be empowered to say, “Look at the sweat pouring off you. Something's wrong. You need to go take a break.” Or notify the supervisor. 

    Review your First Aid program – do you have staff trained on every shift with a valid first aid certificate, ensure trained staff and first aid supplies are available in case of a heat related emergency.  

  4. Promote a healthy lifestyle. Workers who are not physically fit are more susceptible to heat stress because their body must overly exert itself to perform a task.

    Review other risk factors for heat stress with workers. As we age, we're less able to get rid of heat efficiently. And, certain medications, such as blood pressure pills, diuretics, some antidepressants, antipsychotic and antihypertensives cause increased urination and/or increased sensitivity to heat; both of which can reduce the body’s ability to expel heat through sweating or regulate the body temperature.

Additional Resources

Have health and safety questions? Please contact Denise Lam, WSPS Account Manager, Small Business at [email protected].

The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.

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