Deadly heatwaves devastate cities on 4 continents

Do you know how to keep workers safe from extreme temperatures?

Deadly heatwaves devastate cities on 4 continents

Cities across four continents are grappling with deadly heatwaves, underscoring the severe impact of climate change, according to Reuters.

The extreme temperatures may have resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths across Asia and Europe, potentially making this summer the warmest in 2,000 years, according to climate scientists.

In Saudi Arabia, nearly two million Muslim pilgrims have been completing the haj at the Grand Mosque in Mecca under blistering heat, with temperatures soaring above 51 degrees Celsius (124 degrees Fahrenheit). Reports from foreign authorities indicate that hundreds have died during the pilgrimage.

Egyptian medical and security sources told Reuters on Thursday that at least 530 Egyptians had perished while participating, a sharp increase from the 307 reported the previous day. Additionally, 40 Egyptians remain missing.

The Mediterranean region has also been hit hard, enduring another week of scorching temperatures that have fueled forest fires from Portugal to Greece and along Algeria's northern coast. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth Observatory highlighted the widespread impact of these fires, said Reuters.

In Serbia, meteorologists predict temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) this week, driven by hot winds from North Africa sweeping across the Balkans. The country's health authorities have issued a red weather alert, advising residents to stay indoors, said Reuters. Belgrade's emergency services reported that their doctors intervened 109 times overnight to assist individuals with heart and chronic health conditions.

Neighboring Montenegro has also been affected, with health authorities urging people to remain in the shade until late afternoon. Despite the warnings, tens of thousands of tourists flocked to the beaches along the Adriatic coast, seeking respite from the intense heat.

In the U.S., several cities are breaking decades-old temperature records this week as a heat wave stretches from central to eastern portions of the country, said Reuters citing the National Weather Service, in what officials are warning could become a deadly weather event.

Heat stress and worker safety

Working in heat is a dangerous hazard for employees, says the Canadian Federation for Independent Business (CFIB). High temperatures can happen in a variety of work environments, including:

  • Machinery: Foundries, steel mills, bakeries, engine rooms, smelters
  • Sunshine: Construction, road work, agriculture
  • Humidity: Kitchens, laundries, canneries

When the air temperature or humidity rises above the range that is comfortable for workers, exposure to more heat can cause problems that affect performance and make the environment unsafe to work in, says the CFIB. In extreme heat, people may experience:

  • Increased irritability
  • Loss of concentration and ability to do mental tasks
  • Loss of ability to do skilled tasks or heavy work
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating

An additional 1°C of heat will limit the work hours of about 800 million people in the tropics, according to a study in the Cell Press journal One Earth, studied the impact of global warming on the well-being of outdoor workers.

Ten ways to prevent temperature stress at work:

It is an employer’s responsibility to prevent injury or illness as a result of extreme temperatures at their workplace, says the CFIB, offering suggestions to employers:

  1. Hold health and safety meetings with your employees on this subject.
  2. Train staff to be aware of the dangers of extreme temperatures in their work environment.
  3. Have a dress code policy that ensures clothing and safety equipment is suitable for the work environment. This includes footwear, gloves, headgear and eye protection.
  4. Know your federal or provincial regulations to ensure you are working within the safe temperature guidelines.
  5. Have employees take frequent breaks in a comfortable and dry place.
  6. Encourage employees to hydrate by drinking water, clear fluids or sports drinks.
  7. In cold weather encourage warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta and soup to help workers warm up.
  8. In hot weather encourage foods high in potassium, electrolytes, and a little sugar to help someone recharge.
  9. Use the buddy system. Make sure your team looks out for each other.
  10. Accept that extreme temperatures can slow people and productivity down.

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