Workplace safety expert calling for new guidelines on working in the heat

Katrin Bachmann, 51, took part in an experiment at the University of Ottawa, designed to test how older workers react when exercising in extreme heat. She rode a recumbent bicycle inside a calorimeter, while they monitored her temperature.

In a tiny hot metal room at the University of Ottawa, Katrin Bachmann was hard at work, pumping her legs on a recumbent bicycle.

Hooked up to machines that monitored her breathing, her heart rate and her body temperature, the 51-year-old was sweating for science: to help researchers better understand how middle-aged and older adults deal with extreme heat.

“I think it’s good to know if we are affected by heat. Especially for those who are working in the heat, it’s really good to set some base numbers so they stay safe,” she said.

Research like this has led Glen Kenny, a professor of physiology at the University of Ottawa who works in this lab, to believe that the current guidelines on heat stress are inadequate to protect all workers, especially those above 40 and who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes.

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