OFL and NDP launch campaign to combat heat stress in Ontario workplaces

TORONTO, May 22, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and the Ontario New Democratic Party (Ontario NDP) held a media conference at Queen’s Park earlier today to launch The Heat is on! A campaign to combat heat stress in Ontario workplaces.

“It’s the middle of May and we’re already seeing sweltering temperatures in Ontario,” said OFL President Laura Walton. “The dangers of heat stress at work are real–without meaningful legislation, Ontario workers will continue to face the threat of heat-related injuries, sickness, and even death.”

The Ministry of Labour conducted a 30-day consultation last year about a heat stress regulation, but the government has yet to take any action. The OFL made this submission, calling for heat stress to be identified as a workplace hazard in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Working in extreme heat conditions is putting Ontario’s workers’ health at risk,” said Ontario NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, Official Opposition Critic for Climate Action. “Ontario’s summers are getting hotter and hotter, leading to unsafe work conditions for many workers in our province.

“We need better protections for workers from heat stress as Ontario faces more climate change-driven extreme heat events. The time for action is now.”

Tabuns announced that he will introduce a motion in the Legislature next week to address the issue of heat stress in Ontario workplaces.

Front-line workers from the public and private sectors also shared their experiences facing heat stress at work, including Ginette Poulin, a custodian at Nouvelle-Alliance Catholic Secondary School in Barrie, and member of CUPE:

“As the first person to enter my school, I ensure the playground is safe, rake leaves in the fall, blow snow in the winter, and clean the entire school. It’s important work, and I’m proud to do it.

“I’m fortunate to work in an air-conditioned school, but many custodians aren’t. For them, heat drains their energy, making tasks exhausting, and prolonged exposure can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. We deserve better–now. That’s why I’m joining the call to recognize heat stress under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”

The OFL’s heat stress campaign is based on a legislative petition that will be circulated in Ontario workplaces and communities in the coming months, with the goal of winning meaningful heat stress legislation in the fall.

“We need heat stress legislation for everyone in Ontario, not just workers,” added Walton. “Our working conditions are the living, learning, growing, and participating conditions for us all. From sweltering and overcrowded classrooms to poorly ventilated and overheated long-term care rooms, from the stuffy and stifling shop floor to the scorching sun of an outdoor job site–the heat is a hazard that many workers simply cannot escape.”

During the media conference, speakers promoted this Heat Stress Toolkit, prepared by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), which includes this Heat Stress Calculator.

More heat stress resources, including additional quotes by front-line workers, are available on the OFL’s campaign website.

The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. It is the largest provincial labour federation in Canada. Visit OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

For more information, please contact:

Jenny Sellathurai
Interim Director of Communications
Ontario Federation of Labour

jsellathurai@ofl.ca | 416-894-3456

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