Alberta lacks rules and thresholds for working in heat
Province says review of OHS regulations is planned in coming months
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Calgary landscaper Diane Paradis-Reimer knows all too well how dangerous extreme heat can be when working outside.
For the second time in a month, Calgary is under a heat warning from Environment Canada, with temperatures expected to reach 29 degrees Celsius or more until Friday.
Earlier this month Paradis-Reimer was landscaping the Rocky Ridge Recreation Centre, which has exterior brass tiles, making it even hotter.
“The heat that radiates off this thing is intense. It feels like it’s actually at least 10 degrees hotter when you’re working next to it,” she said, adding she carries a gallon jug of water with her and consistently applies sunscreen.
She’s thankful her company recognizes the importance of taking more breaks in the heat and cutting the days shorter when possible.
“It’s almost impossible to stay hydrated in that kind of heat so it’s great that our foreman understands that,” she added.
Having an understanding employer is helpful when temperatures reach these extremes, because the province of Alberta does not have any hard and fast regulations about how hot is too hot for work.
Some provinces including B.C. and Manitoba rely on international standards known as the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ Threshold Limit Value (ACGIH TLV), which spell out how much time a worker should spend working or resting in heat.
Matt Dykstra, spokesperson for Alberta Labour, said employers in Alberta still have a duty to provide safe working conditions for employees.
He pointed to an online guide that provides information about the signs of heatstroke.
He also said the province is planning a review of OHS standards and they look forward to hearing from stakeholders in the coming months.
Jen Silverthorne, manager of occupational health and safety with the City of Calgary, said the city uses the humidex to help guide its decisions on workloads
In the heat of the afternoon, workers may switch from heavy duty work to light duty.
“Every individual is different in accepting the stresses heat brings, so we enable our employees to communicate with their leaders when they’re not feeling well,” she said.