With another scorching Australian summer predicted, it's imperative that measurements are in place to educate and prevent heat stress in employees.
Heat stress related illnesses can be prevented with the correct management program. With another scorching summer predicted for Australia, it is imperative that employers have in place or implement a suitable heat stress education and management program with appropriate breaks, a healthy diet, regular fluid intake and utilisation of appropriate protective clothing to avoid heat stress related illnesses in the workplace.
Current legislation does not indicate what the maximum temperature employees may be exposed to however Australian employers are required to provide, maintain and ensure that so far as reasonably practical, a safe working environment for employees and that all employers take practical steps to minimise the risk of heat hazards in the workplace environment.
Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to sufficiently cool itself down to maintain a healthy temperature. The body’s natural mechanism to combat increasing body temperature is to naturally cool itself down by increasing blood flow to the skin’s surface and sweating however in some cases, sweating isn’t enough to prevent body temperature from increasing.
Symptoms of Heat Stress
Dark coloured urine (a sign of dehydration)
Muscle or abdominal cramps
Nausea, vomitting or diarrhoea
Prevention of Heat Stress
Drink plenty of water. Also consider fluid and electrolyte replacement solutions such as Aqualyte. Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar.
Limit Physical Activity
Too much physical activity during a hot day can lead to heat stress. If possible, schedule hot jobs and activities to cooler parts of the day.
Acclimatise workers by exposing them for progressively longer periods to hot work environments.
Avoid Exposure to Heat
Stay out of the sun as much as possible and if you must be outdoors, remember to protect yourself. Don't forget to 'slip, slop, slap'.
Keep Your Energy Levels Up
Eat smaller meals more often and cold meals such as salads or similar.
Training and Education
Ensure that workers are well educated to recognise symptoms and treat symptoms of heat stress should they arise. In an emergency, call 000 or your local doctor.
Monitor Workers and Working Conditions
Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers as well as the general environment. Personal and area heat stress monitors are extremely useful to help prevent the onset of heat stress.
Keep air circulating around you. Where possible, use air conditioning. Wet towels and cool showers are also advised to help keep your body temperature down.