Operations Safety Bulletin
09-2020 Prevention of Heat Stress Injuries and Illness
Original: 2020-08-05 Revised: n/a Approved by Marc Mes, Director General, Operations, on August 5, 2020.
This notice is to be posted in a place accessible to all employees for a period of 6 months.
On this page
All Canadian Coast Guard Personnel.
The purpose of this safety bulletin is to provide general guidance in the prevention of heat stress related illnesses and injuries. The document also guides decision making beyond national standard operating procedures (NSOPs) when selecting appropriate control measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE), in a pandemic situation and during hot weather conditions.
Heat-related illnesses from working in hot conditions, whether indoors or outdoors, are a serious safety concern. The ability to identify warning signs and take appropriate action is the first step in prevention.
NSOPs provide both general and specific guidance on the control measures to be followed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, NSOPs cannot address every scenario of operational activity. Control measures, including the use of PPE, must not create further risk or another hazard for the health and safety of the employee. Therefore, the final decision for control measures must still be based on risk assessments of specific environments and risk of exposure.
For example: Environmental temperatures have recently raised concerns associated with the use of impermeable protective clothing/apparel (for example, Tyvek suits) in hot weather and risks for heat stress injuries. Studies have shown that wearing Tyvek suits increases the heat stress upon an individual due largely to their impermeabilityFootnote 1. This must be taken into consideration when risk managing the use of these suits; the risks of wearing versus not wearing the suit must be measured in each situation. For instance, when responding to a situation whereby pre-screening has indicated a low or no risk of COVID-19, it may be assessed that the use of the coveralls unnecessarily increases the risk of heat stress and the decision to opt out of using it is preferable. On the other hand, where the suits are deemed necessary, such as in the case of asbestos removal or because COVID-19 transmission risk is high, then the implementation of prevention measures described below must also be adhered to, particularly work-rest ratio determinations.
Identifying heat stress injuries / illness
- Heat rash usually caused by excessive sweating.
- Heat cramps, which are muscle pains that occur during periods of overexertion.
- Heat exhaustion from physical activity in the heat, which can lead to dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a rapid, weak pulse. If left untreated, it can lead to heat stroke.
- Heat stroke, which is very serious and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and dizziness. Heat stroke can raise body temperatures very high within minutes (to over 40 °C) resulting in unconsciousness and can also put strain on heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart failure or stroke.
- For heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Heat stroke is a medical emergency.
- Get medical aid. Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Move to a cooler, shaded location.
- Remove as many clothes as possible (including socks and shoes).
- Apply cool, wet cloths or ice to the head, face or neck. Spray with cool water.
- If heat stoke is not present, encourage the person to drink water, clear juice or a sports drink. In a heat stroke situation, do not try to force the person to drink liquids.
Prevention is the key to protection. Supervisors and managers should establish heat illness prevention procedures within their areas of responsibility. Procedures must include:
- provisions for providing workers with water, rest and shade
- modified work schedules as necessary
- planning for emergencies
- training for workers about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention
- monitoring of workers for signs of illness
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides guidance on control measures including the utilization of heat index system when determining level of heat risk and recommended best practices when implementing work/rest schedules.
Other strategies for reducing heat-related health hazards include the following:
- Always ensure that coveralls and other PPE are ready and accessible in the event that risk analysis determines a need to gear up. It is a good practice to keep a spare change of clothes on hand.
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if not thirsty.
- Schedule frequent breaks and rest in the shade or, if possible, air conditioning to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-coloured loose clothing, apply sunscreen to any exposed areas.
- Acclimatize workers to the heat.
- Eat smaller meals. Eat fruits high in fiber and natural juice. Avoid high protein or heavy foods and dehydrating beverages (coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks).
- Be aware that water, concrete, and sand reflect the sun and can make it stronger.
Enquiries regarding this Operations Safety Bulletin should be directed to:
- Director, Coast Guard Safety and Security
- Date modified: