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Working in the Heat

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As parts of Canada ease from the recent North America-wide Heat Dome there are several health concerns that occur when people are working in the heat, including heat stroke and heat stress. With temperatures hot enough to melt power cables, buckle roads, and even cracking car windows, it’s no wonder that outdoor workers face some serious risks when the thermometer rises.

Heat Illnesses

Heat illnesses occur when the rate of “heat gain” is more than the rate of “heat loss.” When a worker is suffering from the effects of heat, it puts everyone around in jeopardy, as they may experience:

  • Increased irritability
  • A loss of concentration or ability to perform mental tasks
  • An inability to perform skilled tasks or heavy work

It’s predicted that over the next 30 years the number of extremely hot days in a year will more than double in some parts of Canada. Workers should take precautions to stay safe in extreme heat, especially to avoid heatstroke, which occurs when the body becomes unable to cool itself. Warnings of heatstroke include:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Confusion
  • Sudden and severe fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

If a worker exhibits any of the above symptoms, they should be moved to a cool location and receive medical help immediately. While waiting for medical assistance:

  • Remove as many clothes as possible, including socks and shoes
  • Wet the person’s skin and clothing with cool water
  • Do not try to force the person to drink liquids

Conditions that can induce heat-related illnesses include stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, people living in urban areas may be at greater risk from the effects of a prolonged heatwave than those living in rural areas. Asphalt and concrete store heat longer and gradually release heat at night, which can produce higher nighttime temperatures; this is known as the “urban heat island effect.”

A heatwave is an extended period of extreme heat and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don’t take the proper precautions.

During Extreme Heat

What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Listen to local radio for critical updates on the weather.
  • Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities.
  • Consider spending the warmest part of the day in public buildings such as libraries, schools, movie theatres, shopping malls, and other community facilities. Circulating air can cool the body by increasing the evaporation rate of perspiration.
  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.
  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, who are on fluid-restricted diets, or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.
  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors, because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat.

In addition to insuring what matters most to you, The Magnes Group is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when a heatwave strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact us at 1-800-650-3435 or drop us a line below.

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