July 3, 2020
Heat stress is a recognized hazard for many workplaces in the landscape and horticulture profession. Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) will soon offer a new downloadable guide to help workplaces implement a comprehensive approach to assessing potential heat stress hazards linked to Covid-19. Heat Stress Management - A Practical Guide assists workplaces in applying the tried-and-true RACE (Recognize, Assess, Control, Evaluate) model. Users will be able to identify and assess hazards in their workplace, and explore possible controls.

WSPS Ergonomics Specialist Angela Cameron has one concern: could Covid-19 related personal protective equipment (PPE) increase the risk of heat stress? Until now, workers in many workplaces have had no need to wear face shields, masks or eye protection, other than simple safety glasses. But now, authorities are recommending surgical masks and eye protection in any workplace where physical distancing is a challenge. The problem is, they can make wearers feel hotter.

“Every time we exhale, we’re creating a little micro-climate behind our mask or shield,” explains Cameron. “In an already hot environment, these microclimates can make us feel we’re hotter and working harder than we really are.”

While microclimates alone don’t cause an increase in core body temperatures, the associated perceptions of heat and discomfort may distract workers from the tasks at hand (a safety hazard) and cause stress and anxiety (a psychosocial hazard).

WSPS offers this advice to employers and health and safety personnel:
  • Refresh your understanding of work-related heat stress and Covid-19 in the workplace.
  • Review and update your existing heat stress plan in the context of Covid-19.
WSPS offers a variety of heat stress resources, including eCourses, articles, safety tips, and more at WSPS.ca.

Additional resources: