The Employer's Duty to Keep Workers Safe from Summer Heat
July is upon us and as I write this entry it is 35° C (95° F) in Toronto, which apparently breaks the old record of 34.7° C that was set back in 1988.
Factoring in humidex, it felt like 42° C in Toronto today.
There is also a humidex advisory in effect for Toronto, Ottawa and much of southern Ontario.
We will be in for more days like this over the rest of the summer and so it is appropriate to recall that it is the position of the Ministry of Labour that the duty of employers under section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, “includes developing hot environment policies and procedures to protect workers in environments that are hot because of hot processes and/or weather”.
For compliance purposes, the Ministry of Labour recommends the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Heat Stress and Heat Strain published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). These values are based on preventing workers’ core body temperatures from rising above 38°C.
There is a lot of helpful information available to employers on the websites of the Ministry of Labour and the WSIB, which are useful to identify and minimize risks to their workers in the hot summer months. Play it cool, read up and have a safe summer.