By: Ellen A. S. Low
As temperatures continue to rise, both employers and employees may be wondering about their respective obligations when it comes to working in the heat.
Pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act employers have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect workers. This includes an obligation to develop policies and procedures to protect workers in hot environments.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”), Heat Stress Awareness Guide encourages employers to have a “Hot Weather Plan” to prevent preventing heat-related injuries and illnesses in the workplace. The Hot Weather Plan should include regularly monitoring heat and humidity in the workplace using a thermal hygrometer, and adjusting work schedules to allow for water and rest breaks based on the humidex reading at specific work sites.
The Heat Stress Awareness Guide puts the onus on employers to develop and implement a Hot Weather Plan, but stresses that employees must also be familiar with the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Both employers and employees should know the risks of working in a hot environment, and what can be done to reduce the potential risk of heat-related illnesses.
One example I’ve seen was a ‘heat plan’ at an automotive manufacturing plant where for each 45 minutes of work in the sun, employees were required to take a 15 minute ‘cooling break’ in a shaded area where water and popsicles were provided.
Violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act can result in penalties. Employers should ensure they are compliant to avoid potentially hefty fines. Contact our office for more information on how to develop and implement a “Hot Weather Plan” or for further information on other workplace safety obligations.
Whitten & Lublin LLP is a team of legal experts who provide practical advice and advocacy for workplace issues.