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Staying Safe While Working in the Heat - BCGEU

In the past weekend, BC has set a new record temperature high not seen in Canada since 1937. Since we are not acclimatized to this high heat, these increased temperatures present a physical risk factor that may not be taken into account in your day-to-day work. WorksafeBC has put out a comprehensive heat safe document here. This bulletin will take you through any additional factors that need to be considered while working in the heat, tips for staying cool and how to identify signs of heat related illness.

Working in the heat:

With increased temperatures, our bodies are losing moisture at a rate faster than we are used to restoring it. In order to prevent heat related illnesses and conditions, the following can go a long way to reducing your risk:

  • Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes). Note: Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages as they will draw moisture from the body;
  • Wear clean, light coloured, loose-fitting clothing;
  • Take breaks in a cool and/or well-ventilated area and, where possible, time breaks during the hottest part of the day;
  • Aim to do physical work during the coolest part of the day.

Certain risk factors may increase your vulnerability to heat related illness: increased age, pre-existing medical conditions or treatments, short-term illnesses that cause loss of fluids, chronic skin disorders and certain medications can all influence how the heat affects us.
If the heat is impacting your ability to work safely, you have the right to refuse unsafe work. For the steps to refuse unsafe work, please go here.

Heat Related Illness:

Most heat related Illnesses result from excessive sweating without replacing the fluids and salts that are lost through that process.

Illness/Condition Causes Symptoms Treatmeant
Heat Cramps Excessive sweating without replacing salts Painful cramps due to excessive sweating and salt depletion Move to a cooler environment; loosen any tight-fitting clothes; cool slowly with a cold sponge or fan. If alert and not nauseated, give rehydrating liquids

Heat Exhaustion*



*Transport to further medical attention as soon as safe

Depletion of fluids and salts over longer periods of exertion Shallow/increased breathing; weak rapid pulse; pale, cool and clammy skin; sweating; weakness, fatigue, dizziness; headaches and nausea; fainting; muscle cramps Move to a cooler environment; loosen any tight-fitting clothes; cool slowly with a cold sponge or fan. If alert and not nauseated, give rehydrating liquids.

Heat Stroke*




*Transport to further medical attention as soon as safe

Core body temperature rises over 41° Hot, dry, flushed skin; absence of sweating; confusion; agitation; decreased level of consciousness; headache; nausea and vomiting; seizures; increased breathing rate; irregular pulse; shock; cardiac arrest Maintain airway, breathing and circulation; move person to coolest place possible; lay person on their back (if risk of vomiting, lay on side); sponge and fan skin to cool down or wet sheets to apply to body. If alert and not nauseated; give rehydrating liquids

For any questions on heat safety in your workplace, please contact your OHS committee, OHS rep or local steward. If you have OHS concerns or would like to become an OHS rep, please contact us at [email protected]. You can find us online at
Download PDF of notice here.