The hot weather has arrived! But, before you become complacent and enjoy the summer days, you should consider the importance of implementing a workplace heat management plan that will prevent you and your employees becoming a victim of heat stress.
Working in hot and humid weather can lead to serious health issues if steps are not in place to prevent the condition. Whether your workplace conducts its operations in an indoor or outdoor environment you should always remain proactive during the hot weather. Australia is renowned for its extremely hot summers so protecting your employees from the harsh Australian sun is extremely important for their health and for the business as a whole.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress occurs when an individual’s body temperature dangerously overheats due to prolonged exposure to hot or humid weather. Although heat stress is more prominent amongst outdoor workers, it can often affect indoor workers too. Poorly ventilated areas, non-protective clothing and hot areas (e.g. warehouses) can be common factors that result in heat stress.
Symptoms of Heat Stress
Dark coloured urine (a sign of dehydration)
Muscle or abdominal cramps
Nausea, vomitting or diarrhoea
Preventing Heat Stress
Keeping employees cool and hydrated is just the first step in preventing heat stress. Responsible employers should implement a suitable heat stress education and management program that will combat and prevent the likelihood of heat stress occurring within their workforce. So, we’ve compiled a brief list of remedies that may help you when implementing an effective heat stress program.
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.
Air-Met offers a range of heat stress monitor solutions that you can find here.
Keep air circulating around you. Where possible, use air conditioning. Wet towels, cool showers and proper ventilation are also advised to help keep your body temperature down.
When working outdoors remember to wear protective clothing and sunscreen to prevent skin cancer.
A great place to find out more about heat stress, its symptoms and preventing the condition is to review the information provided by your state’s regulator.
Managing the Risks of Working in Heat (Safe Work Australia)