As we move into the peak of summer and are experiencing higher temperatures, it is important to be aware of the risks of working in the heat to protect the health of our employees.
Summers in South Australia are well known for their extreme heat, dryness and high levels of ultraviolet radiation. When physical work is carried outdoors, employees are at risk of developing heat-related illnesses.
Heat related illnesses
Heat illnesses cover a range of medical conditions that can arise when the body struggles to cope with the heat. These conditions include:
- Heat Rash
- Heat Cramps
- Fainting Heat Exhaustion
- Heat Stroke
When temperatures are high, humidity is high and strenuous physical work is being carried out, it is important to take additional measures to minimise the risks of working in heat such as:
- Providing employees with additional rest breaks
- Provide cool down areas (increased air flow, shade of air-conditioned spaces)
- Supply of accessible cold drinking water (e.g. cold water bottles in an eski) and when necessary electrolyte solutions
- Rearranging shift times where possible to conduct work in cooler temperatures
- Encourage workers to drink more water
- Use earth moving equipment and machinery to reduce manual labour
- Ensure employees are provided with breathable uniform
- Ensure workers are not working alone
Symptoms can vary greatly from mild symptoms such as feeling thirsty, dry lips, dark urine to more severe symptoms such as nausea, muscle cramps, fainting. In the event that a worker suffers from a heat related illness, prompt first aid is required. If symptoms are very severe, medical attention may be required. Print off our Working in Heat First Aid Fact Sheet to remind you of the recommended steps to cooling down your employee.
Using a hydration chart can assist employees in assessing how hydrated they are by simply peeking into the toilet bowl. It is important to get enough fluids each day to replace the water that is lost through normal bodily functions such as sweating, urine and even through breathing. Dehydration can also result in heat-related disorders which impairs cognition and can slow down movements.