Toronto – As climate change causes record-breaking heat waves, workers need better protection against heat stress in the workplace and poor air quality.
In Ontario, the labour ministry is moving forward with a plan to regulate heat stress under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and is asking the public for feedback on whether it should add outdoor air quality to the list of hazards it regulates under the law, recently released documents show.
The regulatory proposal's looking to establish more specific criteria around exposure limits, determining when someone has heat stress and when someone's at risk. It also proposes employers implement procedures to limit exposure to heat, train workers to notice signs and symptoms, and take steps to protect themselves.
Poor training is something Santiago Escobar, UFCW Canada National Representative, has seen firsthand.
Many "agricultural workers don't really have the training. They don't know how to identify the symptoms," he said.
Some of the ways the proposal would mandate limiting exposure to heat include engineering controls — physical changes in the workplace to cut down on heat exposure — at indoor workplaces. This could include air conditioning, better ventilation, and more, according to WorkSafeBC, British Columbia's workers' compensation agency.