It doesn't happen too often in this country, but, like this week, we do get times when working outside in warm or hot weather poses extra hazards.
Working in heat can bring on heat stress injuries and heat stroke, the most serious heat-related disorder. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. When this occurs, body temperature can rise to 41C or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability. Signs of this are:
Dry, hot reddish skin and lack of sweating
High body temperature
Strong, rapid pulse
This is what you can do to help your workers.
Provide water, rest and shade. Employers should encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes, and take frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned areas. Don't wait until thirsty before drinking. Encourage workers to carry a drinks bottle, and to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks. Water is always best.
Monitor employees and offer them extra protections from elevated heat conditions. Create a plan to protect workers from heat illness.
Strenuous physical exertion increases body heat and workers’ risk of heat-related illness. Evaluate the combination of body heat and environmental heat to determine if heat stress is a potential hazard. Slow down and know your limits to work safely. Assign extra workers for physically demanding outdoor jobs.
Wear protective clothing that is lightweight, light coloured and loose fitting. Wear a sun hat or accessorising your hard hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. Use a damp rag to wipe your face or place around your neck. Use sunscreen. Avoid or block out direct sun if possible.
Whenever possible schedule work at a cooler time of the day. It is always better to work in the mornings and evening in hot weather.
Ensure adequate planning and supervision to keep workers safe in the heat.
Train workers on the hazards of heat exposure and how to prevent illness.
The above article is part of our Four Seasons of Health and Safety campaign.