Canadian Electrical Industry News Week

Heat Stroke PreventionElectricians tend to work everywhere and anywhere, exposing themselves to countless possible hazards, never mind the actual dangers associated with electricity. Often overlooked is heat stress, a danger that is – make no mistake -- a serious, life-threatening one. And it can be found anywhere: outdoors (naturally), but also in foundries, smelters, chemical plants, bakeries, and, let’s not forget mines. 

We broke down the Ministry of Labour’s advice on the subject: 

The Basics

1.You’re Responsible: Under clause 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are responsible to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. That means developing policies and procedures to protect your employees in hot environments. 

2.Heat stress can happen to anybody. Young, old, fit or unfit.

3.Some basic physiology here, but it’s worth repeating: Your body is always producing heat and passing it onto your surroundings. And the hotter your surroundings, the harder your body has to work to lose that heat. 

Heat Stress and When to Get out of the Kitchen

Heat stress has a few different forms, and sometimes the signs can be hard to spot. Along with fainting and vomiting, here are a few other things to keep an eye on. 

4.Heat Rash: this occurs in a hot, humid environment or plugged sweat glands. and is marked by a red bumpy rash with severe itching. A change of clothes is necessary for treatment, along with washing the affected area. 

5.Heat Cramps: Heavy sweating from physical activity drains your body of fluid and salt, causing a salt imbalance. Usually you’ll feel this in the most used muscles, like your legs, arms or stomach. That salt imbalance can’t be fixed by only drinking water. You need salted water or a drink with electrolytes in it, like Gatorade. Heat cramps can also be a warning sign of…

6.Heat Stroke. There are two types of heat stroke. The first is when, like above, your body has used up its water and salt reserves, causing sweating to stop and your body to overheat. The second type is exertion heat stroke, typically found in younger workers who have been pushing their body for too long in a hot environment. If the person is weak or complains of a headache and/or begins acting confused, chances are they have heat stroke. Be on the watch for excessive sweating, too. In either case, get the person to a cool place, loosen their clothes, give them water to drink and pour water on their body. (Pro Tip: the wrists, under the arms, the back of the neck, and the groin are the best areas to pour water on to lower temperature quickly.) Don’t leave them alone and call for medical assistance if necessary. 

Don’t be a Hero

If you’re not used to working in hot environments, or have employees who are new to working in hot conditions or generally inexperienced, it’s best to take it easy for the first few days to let your body adjust. 

7.It’s recommended that inexperienced people spend 20 percent of their first shift in hot working conditions, then increase that by 20 percent each subsequent shift. By day five, the inexperienced should be acclimatized to the heat. 

8.For experienced workers, it’s advised to spend 50 percent of the first shift in hot conditions, 60 percent on the second and 80 on the third. The fourth day you’ll be ready to work a full shift. 

We Have the Technology

Workplace controls can be implemented. There are engineering solutions, administrative controls and protective gear can be provided. 

9.The physical demand of certain duties can be decreased through mechanical assistance, like hoists and lift-tables. 

10.Heat can be controlled at its source by using insulated and reflective barriers. 

11.If you can reduce the ambient humidity and temperature by cooling the air, or by…

12.Providing cool, shaded areas.

13.Employers should have monitoring strategies in place for hot days or workplaces. 

14.The frequency and length of breaks can be increased.

15.The more strenuous jobs can be moved to cooler parts of the day, like early morning or late evening. 

16.Always have cool drinking water on hand. 

17.Pregnant workers or employees on medication should be advised to consult with their doctor. 

18.Protective clothing, or light clothing, should be worn. 

19.Train employees on heat stress signs, and stress the importance of keeping an eye on each other as people with heat stroke tend not to recognize the signs. 

20.If the heat is processed from a mechanical source, like smelters, furnaces or bakeries, the Ministry of Labour advises employers follow the guidance of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). You can purchase documentation from them here.    [http://www.acgih.org/]

21.Finally, do not underestimate heat stress. For more information, visit Health Canada here.

 

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 Sean Freeman

Sean Freeman is a vibrant, enthusiastic and selfless individual who has taken his trade expertise beyond that of a simple career. Not only is he a Master Electrician but he has traveled around the world as an electrical technician delegate with the Red Cross Emergency Response Unit. His skills are a vital part of emergency response and disaster relief.

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