Heat stress. It’s a risk to people who work outside and can be fatal if not dealt with properly.
Workers in forestry, agriculture, construction, and public works are just some of the workers exposed to heat – another group is those who work in BC’s vineyards.
Crop estimating and ripeness sampling are two main job tasks that put workers at risk, especially if they’re not acclimatized to working in heat.
This is what I learned from Sandra Oldfield, CEO/president of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, who I met at the first BC Safety Charter signing in 2011.
I emailed Sandra to ask how her company looks out for its outdoor workers in the heat. She checked in with the vineyard manager and reported back via email.
The “main protection in vineyards for sun exposure is flexible work times and protective clothing – this, combined with the availability of water and shaded meal areas, reduces the risk of dehydration and heatstroke,” she said.
Sandra sent me a copy of Tinhorn’s heat stress control plan, which describes heat stroke.
It’s a condition that happens “when body temperatures rise above 36-38C and the body cannot get rid of the excess heat faster than it gains more heat, the body temperature increases and the person experiences heat stress,” it reads.
This type of control plan is required by WorkSafeBC – and described in WorkSafeBC’s Preventing Heat Stress at Work.
Tinhorn’s plan outlines which workers are most at risk, how to spot effects, what to do, and how to prevent it, including:
- Acclimatizing employees to the environment – “For example, you can put an employee on 20% of the full workload on the first day and then increase by 10-20% each day after that
- Supervising employees who work in pairs or groups and making sure one of our first aid attendants is working as well
- Determining work-rest cycles and trying to have breaks taken in the shade
- Scheduling work to minimize heat exposure, with the hardest physical tasks when it is most cool
- Drinking water before, during and after working in a hot environment
- Wearing anti-radiant clothing or reflective clothing
Thanks to Sandra, who you can follow on Twitter at: @sandraoldfield
For more info watch this video from the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
- Health and Safety for Small- and Medium-Sized Wineries (WorkSafeBC)
- Hot Environments – Health Effects (CCOHS)
- Heat Stress (Workplace Safety & Prevention Services Ontario)
- Heat Stress in Agriculture (FARSHA)
- Heat Stress – Prepare for the heat (Infrastructure Health and Safety Association)