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WorkSafeBC urges employers to close down if they can’t keep workers cool amid heat wave

B.C. has seen a record-breaking heat wave in recent days
FILE – Workers do maintenance at the Scotlynn Group near Vittoria, Ont., in Norfolk County on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

WorkSafeBC is asking employers to shut down their workplaces if they cannot keep their workers cool during the record-breaking heat wave.

The advisory comes as the province is baking under sweltering temperatures. On Sunday, the Village of Lytton in Interior B.C. broke Canadian heat records at 46.6 C and temperatures could get even hotter today.

On Vancouver Island, Victoria is coming in at 37 C as of early Monday afternoon, with Abbotsford at 40 C, Williams Lake at 36 C, Kelowna at 38 C and Cranbrook at 34 C, according to Environment Canada.

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“All workers are potentially at risk,” said Al Johnson, head of Prevention Services at WorkSafeBC. “With the heatwave across B.C., we are warning employers and workers about the risk of developing heat stress. If not recognized and treated early, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

Employers in B.C. must conduct heat stress assessments and have heat stress mitigation plans that provide education and training in recognizing heat stress and heat stroke. WorkSafeBC has accepted almost 100 claims of injuries caused by heat stress on the job in the past three years.

“If an employer cannot be assured that workers will be protected against heat stress, they should seriously consider shutting down their workplace during this extreme heat,” said Johnson.

WorkSafeBC said there are three stages of heat stress: heat cramps which are painful muscle cramps; heat exhaustion which can show up as shallow breathing, increased heart rate, rapid pulse, cool, pale clammy skin, weakness, fatigue and dizziness; and heat stroke which can show as hot, dry, flushed skin, a lack of sweat despite the heat, agitation and confusion, decreasing conciousness and awareness, vomiting, seizures and even cardiac arrest.

VIDEO: Mama bear and cubs escape the heat by taking a dip in a B.C. pool


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