Heat wave

A construction worker helps build an apartment complex at the corner of Clement Avenue and Richter Street in Kelowna. During the current heat wave, WorkSafeBC has issued a warning and tips for how outdoor workers can avoid heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

It’s sweltering out there.

It’s especially sizzling if you’re working outdoors in the direct sun on a construction site, dressed in a hard hat, heavy steel-toed boots, long work pants, a shirt and a safety vest.

That’s why WorkSafeBC has issued a heat advisory for outdoor workers and their employers.

“Outdoor work increases in the summer months, and both employers and workers need to be aware of the dangers of sun exposure and heat stress,” said senior manager of prevention Barry Nakahara.

Heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion, which can become heat stroke.

“Last year in B.C., there were 38 accepted claims for work-related injuries caused by heat stress. These are preventable injuries,” Nakahara said.

Since the Okanagan is often the hottest region in the province, being aware of, preventing and treating heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke is paramount.

Over the B.C. Day long weekend, a heat wave descended on the Valley, pushing the mercury up to 34 C.

Tuesday saw blistering sun and 33 C.

Wednesday and Thursday will also be sunny and 34 C.

Friday, the temperature dips, but only slightly, to 32 C, with the chance of a thundershower to break up the high pressure.

By the weekend, the heat wave will be over, with cloud, showers and a high of 23 C in the forecast.

Symptoms of heat stress and heat exhaustion include excess sweating, dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps.

By the time it turns into heat stroke, the victim stops sweating, but the dizziness, fainting and muscle cramps can continue with the possible addition of increased breathing rate, confusion, seizures and even cardiac arrest.

Awareness and prevention are key because if workers start to feel ill, they likely already have heat stress or heat exhaustion.

To prevent heat stress, WorkSafeBC urges workers and employers to monitor conditions and make sure no one is working alone outside.

Workers should drink plenty of water — a glass every 20 minutes — to avoid dehydration.

Wear sunscreen.

Hard physical work should be scheduled for the cooler parts of the day — before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m.

Workers should also wear light, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric.

First aid has to be available and emergency procedures must be in place.

Modifications to working conditions, facilities, equipment and processes should be made to keep workers out of the sun and heat as much as possible.

This can include rotating work activities and using additional workers to reduce exposure for everyone.

More breaks in established areas with shade and water are necessary to cool down.