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Hardships of Heat: New guide offers advice on working in the heat

Hamilton, ON -- Whether you work in a foundry, surrounded by vats of molten metal, or in an office without air cond...


Hamilton, ON — Whether you work in a foundry, surrounded by vats of molten metal, or in an office without air conditioning, working in a hot environment can be more than just unpleasant. It’s a potential danger to your health.

How the human body responds to hot environments depends on several factors, including air temperature, relative humidity and air movement. How much heat is exchanged between the body and the environment also depends on our clothing, our general state of health and acclimatization, and our level of physical exertion – all of which are explained in detail in Working in Hot Environments: A Health and Safety Guide.

This 96-page publication by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) serves as a handy resource for health and safety committee members and representatives as well as supervisors, managers, engineers and other health and safety professionals.

Heat exposure can be controlled. The guide outlines how to use engineering and administrative controls for improving thermal comfort in the workplace, as well as recommended personal protective equipment and sample safe work practices.

A section on the different heat related illnesses, including heat strain and heat stroke, explains the seriousness of these potentially fatal conditions, how to recognize symptoms, and what to do if someone is exhibiting those symptoms.

The book guides the reader through health and safety law, outlining the employer’s and the employee’s rights and responsibilities when it comes to preventing heat stress. The reader will gain a good understanding of occupational exposure limits and thermal comfort guidelines under heat exposure standards, as well as how heat exposure is measured. A section on legislative authorities in Canada and the U.S. lists contact information and web links for easy reference.

“The main purpose of this guide,” say the authors, “is to emphasize the importance of developing safe work practices and implementing preventive measure to prevent and or minimize worker exposure to extreme heat.”

A French-language edition of the guide also will be published this year.

For more information on the guide or answers to OSH questions, contact the CCOHS Inquiries Service toll free at 1-800-263-8466.