‘We’re cooking’: Montreal contractors deal with 4th consecutive heat wave in Quebec

Working in the hot summer sun
The repetitive heat waves hitting Montreal this summer are making work especially challenging for landscapers. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports on how they cope spending hours every day outside

As Montreal continues to deal with a smouldering heat wave, the workers’ health and safety board is issuing warnings to local contractors working outdoors.

The CNESST is calling on workers to be safe during this intense heat.

While it has not received any complaints or issued fines, it is advising workers to be aware of the dangers of working during the heat wave.

“Employees and managers need to be aware of the health risks working in conditions like this,” spokesperson Julie Robitaille said.

Read more: Heat wave expected for Montreal this week, Environment Canada warns

The workers’ health and safety board has posted a list online of ways workers can beat the heat while on the job site:

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  • Drink lots of water, several times a day.
  • Wear light, breathable clothing.
  • Take frequent breaks in a shaded, cool area.
  • Stop working if you feel symptoms of heatstroke.

Read more: Blistering heat wave prompts boosted cooling measures in Montreal

“There is only so much we can do to get away from the heat. We’re just constantly cooking,” said Dave Varin, who owns West Island landscaping company Paysagiste la vie en vert.

Varin says this summer has been gruelling.

“The days have been long hot and sticky,” he said.

Varin and his employee say they have adapted their work schedule to deal with the blistering temperatures, starting and finishing earlier in the day to avoid the sun as much as possible.

He says he and his employee are doing their best to stay cool.

Stay hydrated: Tips on how to avoid heat related emergencies
Stay hydrated: Tips on how to avoid heat related emergencies

Varin says they have been following the safety guidelines and have been taking frequent water breaks.

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However, heatstroke is a reality for workers in these conditions. Varin says he has fallen victim to it twice already this season.

“I’m kinda recovered from it now. I got to watch out for it even though I’m drinking tons of water,” Varin said.

Despite the hard working conditions, Varin says he has seen a significant increase in the number of jobs this summer.

Read more: Montrealers face dilemma — Staying safe from the heat while staying safe from COVID-19

“The length of these heat waves is unusual,” Environment Canada meteorologist Andre Cantin said.

Since June, Quebec, and Montreal in particular, has experienced four consecutive heat spells lasting longer than three days, Cantin said.

He says that while stretches of temperatures reaching 30 C are not uncommon, the length of time they have lasted is.

Coronavirus outbreak: Dr. Tam provides public health advice for managing a heat wave
Coronavirus outbreak: Dr. Tam provides public health advice for managing a heat wave

“The heat is not going away,” Cantin said.

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Future forecasts are calling for temperatures in the low 30s for the rest of the week.

Cantin said the rest of the summer will be similar, according to early readings for July and August.