Ottawa, ON — Ontario is seeking comments on its proposed heat stress regulations and outdoor air quality amendments.
According to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) statistics, 350 lost-time claims for heat exhaustion for construction workers have been filed between 2006 and 2015.
Heat stress occurs when the heat load on a worker from the combined contribution of environmental factors, physical activity, and clothing overcomes the body’s natural cooling system.
The current requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) state that employers have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This general duty includes protecting workers from hazardous thermal conditions that may lead to heat-related illnesses.
As a result, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) proposes introducing a stand-alone heat stress regulation under the OHSA with specific requirements that would apply to all workplaces to which the OHSA applies.
The regulation will introduce heat stress exposure limits based on the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) method. Additionally, it allows using other methods to assess a worker’s risk of exposure to heat stress. Employers are required to identify and implement measures and procedures to control heat exposure based on the hierarchy of controls, and are required to provide workers with information and instruction on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and the measures to protect themselves.
As a general practice, the ministry looks to the ACGIH method of assessing a worker’s risk of heat stress based on a wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) threshold. The ACGIH method is widely used and adopted by other Canadian jurisdictions.
The ministry is conducting a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) of these proposed amendments. An RIA is a process of identifying and assessing proposed regulations’ potential benefits and costs.
Participants interested in leaving a comment on the anticipated costs and benefits of implementing these proposed amendments can visit Comments on Amendments to Heat Stress Regulations and Outdoor Air Quality.
Comments are due by Sept 1, 2023.