National Summer Safety Week - Keep your cool in the heat

April 29, 2014

After months of chilly Canadian weather, we are more than ready for some summer heat! But too much sun and heat exposure can lead to serious heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses include heat stress, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Symptoms can range from painful muscle spasms to fainting, seizures, unconsciousness and even death. 

This National Summer Safety Week, from May 1-7, the Canada Safety Council encourages Canadians to take proactive safety measures to protect themselves, their children and pets while enjoying the heat of the summer months.

Preventing heat illnesses

During heat waves, schedule outdoor activities during the morning or evening whenever possible to minimize time spent outdoors during peak heat hours.

  • Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol – they are natural diuretics and will dehydrate you.

  • Eat a balanced diet and consider sports drinks that contain electrolytes to replenish your body.

  • Plan ahead and bring drinking water with you when you travel, when you are on the jobsite, etc.

  • When out in the sun, wear light-coloured, loose fitting, and long-sleeved clothing, and a hat with a brim.

  • If you experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blurred vision or nausea, stop what you are doing and find a place to rest. 

Protecting workers

Young men in manual occupations are the most vulnerable to extreme heat and heat-illnesses, according to an Ontario study by the Institute for Work & Health. Inexperienced workers are especially at risk, because it takes time for the body to become used to working in hot conditions.

In its ‘Heat Stress Awareness Guide,’ the Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario offers the following recommendations to employers for managing the risk of heat stress:

Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress and to know how to avoid them.

  • Provide water nearby on the job site and ensure everyone drinks about one cup of water every 20 to 30 minutes, even if they’re not thirsty.

  • Establish a first-aid response system with trained first-aid providers and a means to record and report heat stress incidents.

  • Allow time for workers to acclimatize to the heat and the work. This usually takes about two weeks.

  • Encourage workers to use a buddy system – each buddy looks out for early signs and symptoms of heat stress in the other.

Kids and cars

Even on days that seem relatively mild, 20 minutes is all it takes for the interior of a vehicle to reach extreme temperatures. Exposure to these conditions can cause a child to overheat, go into shock and sustain vital organ failure. 

Tragedies like these happen every year in Canada; yet, they are entirely preventable. Parents and caregivers need to be aware of and recognize the inherent dangers of leaving a child unattended, especially in a confined space such as a car on a hot day. The advice is simple: never leave a child alone in a vehicle – not even for a minute.

Children are especially sensitive to heat exposure because their sweat glands are not fully developed, which means their bodies are not capable of cooling down quickly. When exposed to heat, a child’s body temperature rises three times faster than an adult in the same conditions.

Incidents of children being forgotten in a vehicle can occur if otherwise responsible parents and caregivers are distracted, fatigued or if there is a break in daily routine. However, extra care and vigilance is all it takes to ensure the safety of children and all other vehicle occupants, such as pets and elderly persons. Develop the habit of consciously checking that all occupants are out of the vehicle before it is parked and locked. For example, lock your vehicle using your key, rather than a remote. Use these few seconds to scan the interior of the vehicle to make sure that no one has been left behind. 

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For more information, please contact: 

Raynald Marchand

General Manager, Programs

Canada Safety Council

(613) 739-1535 (ext. 226)