Last year, WorkSafeBC accepted 81 workers’ claims related to heat stress injuries
Richmond, B.C. (July 6, 2023) — With temperatures on the rise across several regions of B.C., WorkSafeBC is reminding employers to be aware of heat-related risks to their workers — both indoors and outdoors — and to implement measures to keep workplaces safe.
As temperatures rise, so does the risk of heat-related illness. WorkSafeBC notes that heat stress claims have been increasing in recent years. Between 2018 and 2020, WorkSafeBC had an average of 41 accepted claims per year from heat stress. The number of claims increased to 115 during the heat dome in 2021, and remained elevated in 2022, with a total of 81 claims from heat stress.
Workers most at risk of heat stress include those working at farms, construction sites, restaurants/kitchens, and factories.
“Heat stress can lead to a range of health issues, including painful muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening,” says Suzana Prpic, Senior Manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC. “It’s important to recognize that heat stress is preventable, and all employers can take proactive steps to protect their workers in both indoor and outdoor settings.”
To prevent heat-stress injuries, WorkSafeBC requires employers to conduct a heat stress assessment. Once done, employers must develop a heat stress exposure control plan. The plan should include training and safe work procedures.
WorkSafeBC encourages employers to engage their workers and joint health and safety committees in discussions to identify hazards related to heat and sun exposure and determine how to eliminate or reduce the risks.
WorkSafeBC provides the following safety tips for employers and workers to stay safe in hot weather:
What employers can do:
- Ensure that workers are engaged in discussions about heat-related hazards, right at the start of each workday.
- Establish cooling areas with shade and water.
- Determine appropriate work-rest cycles; when a worker feels ill it may be too late.
- Rotate work activities or use additional workers to reduce exposure.
- Provide air conditioning or increased ventilation to remove hot air.
- Monitor heat conditions and require workers not to work alone.
- Ensure there is adequate first-aid coverage and emergency procedures are in place.
What workers can do:
- Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes).
- Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric, such as cotton.
- Take rest breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Do more strenuous physical work activities during the coolest parts of the day, before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m.
- Know your personal risk factors, such as medications and any pre-existing conditions.
- Check the signs and symptoms for heat stress for yourself and co-workers.
- WorkSafeBC provides tools and resources on heat stress for workers and employers on its website and translates these into multiple languages.
- A new version of the booklet Preventing Heat Stress at Work is available online.
- WorkSafeBC’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation outline duties for employers: