The sunshine makes it easier to engage in safe outdoor recreational activities, like hitting the patio, tennis court, or beach. Especially after a cool spring spent mostly indoors, the summer heat has come for many as a welcome relief. It also means that safe working conditions can be trickier. Some of the risks of working during the summer include heat stress, sun exposure, and dehydration. No matter what industry you’re in, and whether you’re working inside or out, working safely in the heat should be a top priority. It’s an employer’s duty to take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of every person in the workplace. It’s also every employee’s responsibility to watch out for their coworkers, and make sure safety precautions are being followed internally. Similarly, even when you’re not working, be courteous and appreciative of the workers who help make our summer recreation possible. Slower wait-times, or different ways of service, are part of what we can all expect to make sure we’re putting workers’ health first. As the days continue to get longer and hotter, it’s important to understand the risks that come with working in the sun – and how to appreciate the warm weather safely. Heat Stress The Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration lists heat stress as a risk when a “worker's core body temperature exceed[s] 38°C (100°F)”. This can happen when heat builds in the body internally (via muscle use) or externally (in the environment). For this reason, workers in physically demanding industries such as agriculture, construction, or food and beverage may be at an increased risk. Risk also increases for those with pre-existing health conditions. Heat stress can be mitigated by: Reducing activity levels; Reducing heat exposure; and Drinking fluids regularly. Additionally, many people don’t know that the body temperature rising even a few degrees can effect mental functionality. Signs of heat stress include dizziness, nausea, weakness and confusion – that’s why it’s also important to check in frequently with coworkers for any irregular behaviour. Sun exposure Sun exposure is caused by over-exposure to UV rays and can lead to skin cancer, sunburn, cataracts and more. The biggest risk associated with sun exposure is melanoma, one of the most common cancer types found in young Canadians. In 2021, there were approximately 8,700 new cases of melanoma in Canadians , and outdoor workers are up to 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed. The best way to protect against skin cancer is by opting for a seat in the shade instead of in the sun, especially during hours when the UV index is highest (generally between 10am and 4pm). If you can’t avoid being out in the sun, the next best thing is to invest in a good sunscreen. If you want to know more about picking the right sunscreen for you (depending on age, allergies or skin tone), check out the resources at skincancer.org. Sunsafetyatwork.ca is a great resource for Canadian employers to learn more about sun safety, and develop your own sun safety plan. The CDC also offers some tips to get started, like: Modifying the workplace to increase shaded areas; Encouraging protective equipment, such as sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats; and Allowing workers adequate breaks in the shade to reapply sunscreen. Dehydration Dehydration can occur when you lose more fluid than you take in. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety lists the following as signs of dehydration: Excessive thirst; Dizziness or light-headedness; Headache; Fatigue or drowsiness; Dry mouth, lips and eyes Dark yellow urine; and Urinating only small amounts, infrequently (less than three or four times a day). Beyond managing heat in the workplace, employers can mitigate the risk of dehydration by making sure there is always adequate fresh water available, and encouraging a buddy system to let workers monitor each other for signs and symptoms. -- Summer is too short to miss due to a heat-related illness that could have been easily avoided. Let’s all do our part to celebrate the summer heat, safely.