Guest contribution from Amelia Douglas
Summer is in full swing and based on current heat warnings from Environment Canada, it is unsurprising that Metro Vancouver workers and residents are feeling the heat.
Prolonged exposure to increased temperatures can result in health impacts that range from mild to severe, such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.1 While temperature affects all people, certain groups are at higher risk for heat related illness.2 Individuals who work outdoors, are over the age of 45, are pregnant, have poor general health, or are taking certain medications that interfere with thermoregulation (the body’s ability to maintain its internal temperature) can be at an elevated risk of experiencing adverse health effects in times of increased or prolonged heat events.1-3
The good news is that at UBC, there are a number of strategies and tools employees, supervisors and managers can use to prevent and reduce the risk of heat stress and illnesses.4
1. Drink plenty of water. For tips on how to hydrate, check out this Healthy UBC article, Top Tips for Staying Well This Summer.
2. Wear cool clothing (e.g. loose fitting, cotton, light coloured). If you are required to wear a hardhat, try attaching a light-coloured piece of fabric to the back to shade your neck.
3. Take breaks out of the heat. Opt for the shade or air-conditioned buildings.
4. Work in pairs or groups. Avoid working alone in conditions where heat stress is possible.
5. Schedule work to reduce heat exposure. Be aware of daily temperature changes, and schedule the hardest physical tasks for cooler parts of the day (e.g. in the morning).
Recognition & Action
Recognizing if a colleague is exhibiting any signs and symptoms of heat stress or heat-related illness is critical for intervening early and reducing the risk of serious health effects. To learn more about the physiological effects of heat and what you can do if you are a manager/supervisor/colleague, visit this WorkSafeBC page on heat stress. If you recognize signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, follow these St. John Ambulance first aid guidelines.5
Amelia Douglas is the Program Coordinator for UBC’s Occupational & Preventive Health Unit. Originally from the ‘friendly town’ of Almonte, Ontario, she moved to Vancouver in 2015 to pursue her Masters of Public Health in Environmental & Occupational Health at Simon Fraser University. Amelia has a keen interest in risk assessment and disease prevention and brings a background in community engagement and outreach to her work at UBC.