Blog Post #262 – Manitoba WCB Warns Against Poor Heat Preparedness

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

With a heat wave hitting the prairies, an official with the Manitoba Workers Compensation Board says employers should have a plan in place to protect people on the job. Warren Preece of the WCB says hot weather is as much a hazard in the workplace as an unguarded saw or working on a roof without fall protection. He says high heat can cause exhaustion, dizziness and even seizures in some instances.

At one Winnipeg roofing company, Randy Van Elslander says their strategy is to start early in the day and finish by noon or 1 p.m.

Another strategy some companies are using is to do split shifts, with employees working in the morning and in the evening to avoid the hottest daytime hours.

Officials also advise that if anyone spots a co-worker appearing to suffer from heat stress to move them to a cool, shaded area, loosen or remove heavy clothing, provide cool drinking water and call 911 immediately.

My opinion

I was wondering what took so long for the recognition of ‘Heat Stress’, ‘Heat Stroke’ and ‘Heat Cramps’ are very real examples of a physical hazard and steps have to be taken to protect the workers.

Does anyone remember what happened at the Weston Bakery up in Barrie Ontario?

Canadian employers have been fined for not protecting employees against heat-related injuries. For example, an Ontario bakery was fined $215,000 after an employee died of heat stroke. The temperature in the bakery was 36 degrees Celsius, and the outside temperature 34. The bakery had a heat stress plan but hadn’t implemented at the time of the accident [Weston Bakeries Limited, Ont. MOL News Release, Feb. 18, 2004].

Some provinces, including British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have OHS regulations requiring specific measures to guard employees against extreme heat. All provinces also have a ‘General Duty’ clause similar to the one in the OSHA law.

Please consider your employees and review your company’s policy for heat stress. It will be a variation to your regular procedures but the weather changes dictate other arrangements need to be made. An employer would NEVER consider not protecting an employee during cold weather work so why would considerations not be made for employees working in hot weather?

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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