Temperature and Weather
Thermal exposure constitutes a hazard that is applicable to BCCF field staff during their work as the province of BC can experience temperatures greater than 38⁰C (100⁰F) in the summer months, and temperatures well below -20⁰C in the winter months. In most cases the worker that experiences the more dangerous symptoms of heat or cold stress is unaware or unable to notice these symptoms and as such should not work alone. Through appropriate training and orientation, all BCCF employees working in these environments should be expected to be able to recognize the signs/symptoms and treat them to ensure they are able to keep themselves and their co-workers safe. A brief overview of hazards related to heat, sun and cold can be found within this OHSP in Part 2: SWPs.
BCCF employees at the highest risk of heat exposure are those field staff conducting work in the summer months. BCCF field staff exposed to heat are often subject to external temperatures and humidity beyond our control. Often work related to conservation, in particular fish and wildlife species is time or condition sensitive during the year and as such a period of acclimatization for those staff accustomed to or currently working in indoor facilities prior to commencing field work is not always possible. However through training and orientation BCCF employees will be made aware of and trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress and will follow these tips in addition to reviewing the appropriate SWPs.
- Monitor and be aware of potential temperatures when planning work days;
- Start earlier in the day to avoid work during the hottest hours of the day;
- Take frequent breaks;
- Work more strenuous days with greater amounts of physical work required later in the week to allow body to acclimatize to heat;
- Seek shade for breaks and whenever possible attempt to conduct work in cover of shade;
- Stay hydrated, in extreme heat this could mean a litre of water an hour, have a drink every 15-20 minutes;
- Wear a large brim hat and sunglasses;
- Attempt to cover any exposed skin; and
- Wear loose fitting light weight clothing.
Heat stroke is of the greatest concerns for workers in extreme heat as it can be fatal. Less severe responses to heat stress are heat exhaustion, heat edema, heat rash, heat cramps, and heat syncope (fainting). Signs of heat exhaustion may include:
- Severe fatigue,
- Muscle cramps,
- Thirst, and/or
- Unexplained irritability.
If any of the above signs are observed the following first aid will be administered until medical attention is received:
- Relocate employee to cool area or shade, if truck close by start air conditioning;
- Remove excess clothing, including shoes and socks;
- Encourage employee to drink water, clear juice or sports drink;
- Apply wet cool cloths (or ice if wrapped so it may not directly contact the skin) to face, neck and head. If available spray with cool water; and
- Keep employee calm and talking.
Symptoms of heat stroke are much more severe and include:
- High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke;
- Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, disorientation, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke;
- Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch;
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit;
- Flushed, hot, and dry skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases;
- Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow;
- Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body;
- Headache. Your head may throb; and/or
- Loss of consciousness.
If heat stroke is suspected call 911. Until medical assistance arrives administer the following first aid:
- Relocate affected employee to cool area;
- Remove socks and shoes and as much clothing as possible;
- Apply wet, cool cloths to head, face, neck, armpits and groin;
- Wet clothing with water; and
- Do NOT force the affected employee/colleague to drink fluids.
For additional information regarding heat stress in the workplace please refer to the applicable SWPs located in the Part 2 of this OHSP.
Hypothermia is the greatest concern for workers exposed to cold temperatures as it can be fatal. Other concerns include non-freezing injuries such as chilblains, immersion foot, trench- foot, and freezing injuries including frost-nip and frostbite. BCCF employees will equip themselves with appropriate clothing and PPE to protect against the cold, including applicable footwear, gloves, hats, rain-gear, snow-gear, and additional dry layers as required. Through training and orientation, all BCCF employees deployed to the field in cold or damp conditions are required to know how to assess the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and cold-related injuries in additional to the appropriate first aid treatments and how to administer them.
A larger list comprising many of the most common cold related injuries and the appropriate first aid/response to them has been made available for all BCCF employees within the related SWP located in Part 2 of this OHSP.
In addition, due to the severity of cold related injuries and the frequency with which BCCF field staff may be exposed to them, a short outline has been provided below:
Hypothermia can range from mild to severe and as the core temperature drops the signs can change from shivering, goosebumps, reduced dexterity, and numbness in mild cases to loss of consciousness and cardiac failure. If any of the symptoms below are observed and believed to be linked to hypothermia get the affected person/employee to medical help immediately:
- Severe Fatigue and laboured movement,
- Intense or violent shivering that limits coordination, movement, speech
- Stumbling, confusion, disorientation, unexplained irritability or euphoria,
- Cessation of shivering, skin puffy and/or blueish
- Sluggish poor movement,
- Loss of awareness.
First aid that can be administered in the field until help arrives is: For Mild Hypothermia
- Remove any wet clothing
- Trap heat, can be done by placing affected employee between 2 blankets to gradually rise temperature
- Radiation or convection heat, can be achieved with body to body contact
- Ensure all skin is dry
- Give fluids and food, warm drinks if available For Severe Hypothermia
- Remove any wet clothing
- Package affected employee in blankets and add heat source
- Avoid rapid rewarming as it can bring on shock
- Evacuate to medical help immediately
In the field temperatures can be variable day to day and the effects of wind in these temperatures is often underestimated. The broad scope of many BCCF projects can make having cold stress assessment and exposure plans for each workplace difficult. To ensure that these risks are assessed BCCF has developed appropriate SWPs related to backcountry and winter work, including winter driving. All staff working in these conditions should consult these applicable SWPs prior to planning and conducting involved work. In addition, and as per Regulation 7.35 (2), BCCF will provide employees with effective administrative controls and PPE to mitigate effects of cold. As per the applicable legislation G7.35-4, field employees at a minimum will have additional clothing available that would mitigate the expected overnight low, a sleeping bag rated for same, and survival equipment. Survival kit items should be comprehensive to the planned tasks and recommended items would include:
- Extra blankets
- Survival stove
- Dehydrated or non-perishable food
- Fire starting kit
- Flashlight and batteries
- Survival whistle
- Folding saw
- Garbage bags and
- First aid kit.
Additional information regarding hypothermia in the workplace is provided within the applicable SWPs located in Part 2 of the OHSP.
Other Weather Factors
BCCF staff conducting field work shall always ensure that they are aware of any existing, current, and/or expected weather hazards prior to commencing work, and practicing ongoing awareness throughout the day to hazards which may affect them or their workplace during the scope of their daily and/or ongoing activities. Both Supervisors and staff should be expected to make reasonable judgements regarding the planning and execution of expected work and activities involved, and at all times give appropriate consideration to expected forecasts.
Inclement weather can provide serious risk to field staff if they are not appropriately equipped for or aware of the hazards and challenges it may result in.
There are many ways inclement weather can provide additional challenge and hazards in the workplace, some of the factors to consider are:
- Sustained, or gusting high wind speeds and ground level wind shear – especially for crews (including but not limited to those) working on open water, or working under forested canopy, and/or working with expectations of cold exposure;
- Stormy weather capable of producing violent lightening, and/or sustained or rapid precipitation – crews may be exposed (but not limited) to lightening hazards while under forested canopy, forest fires, flash flooding, washed out roads, mudslides, extremely slippery conditions and extremely limited visibility; and
- Winter storm/blizzard activity – may include high winds, extreme icing conditions, heavy snowfall may impair the ability to travel, severely limited visibility, avalanche risks.
More information on these and other associated weather hazards has been provided for all staff within the applicable weather related SWPs located in Part 2 of the OHSP.