OHS Canada Magazine

Alberta offers tips for employers, workers to stay cool in extreme heat


August 15, 2022
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety Legislation alberta climate change Extreme Heat Heat heat stress

To prevent heat exhaustion, workers need to stay hydrated. (justocker/Adobe Stock)

The Alberta government is reminding employers of their obligations to assess hazards and keep workers safe when the temperature climbs. The advice is a worthwhile reminder for all employers across the country.

Extreme heat is a potential workplace hazard for workers who work outdoors and in some indoor settings, the province said. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to assess heat-related hazards and take all reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of workers.

“Alberta summers can add safety risks for those working outside or in other hot environments. Keeping hydrated and taking time to cool down is critical to maintaining healthy and safe workplaces,” said Kaycee Madu, Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration. “I encourage employers and workers to work together to minimize the risks of hot temperatures so that everyone can return home safely.”

Signs of heat stress

Employers and workers should be aware of the early signs of heat stress and treat it immediately. Signs include:

  • irritability
  • headache
  • dizziness and fatigue
  • heavy sweating
  • dehydration (may include a reduced ability to sweat)
  • muscle cramps
  • heat rash

These symptoms can progress to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention.

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Tips for employers

There are numerous steps employers can and should take:

  • provide plenty of cool drinking water
  • reduce physical activity demands on workers, change the work location to a cooler, shaded area, and create a cooling station where workers can rest
  • use a work/rest schedule with extra breaks if needed
  • allow workers to acclimatize by gradually increasing the time spent working outdoors or in other hot environments
  • schedule physically demanding jobs for cooler times of the day
  • start the work day earlier when it’s cooler and end the work day before the heat hits its peak
  • train and educate workers to recognize signs of heat stress.

Tips for employees

Workers also have a key role to play:

  • stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • wear suitable clothing for the heat in combination with any needed personal protective equipment
  • alert their supervisor or employer if they’re feeling heat stress symptoms
  • work at a pace that does not produce heat stress symptoms

Susceptibility to heat-related injury or illness varies from person to person, the province said. Factors such as age, medical conditions, general health and fitness level and whether a worker is acclimatized to heat can make people more or less susceptible to feeling extreme heat.

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