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What are the risks of working in the heat?

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF WORKING IN THE HEAT?

Extreme heat can cause workers to feel nauseous, dizzy, weak or fatigued, collapse, faint or suffer convulsions; or develop conditions such as:

- Heat  exhaustion
- Heat cramps
- Heat rash and
- Heatstroke, which is life-threatening

Extreme heat can also exacerbate an existing illness. Failing to deal with heat issues in your workplace not only affects your workers' health, it can also lead to errors and inefficiencies in completing work tasks, and can negatively affect workers' morale. Workers are most at risk when the temperature and humidity are high and there is limited   ventilation.

New workers who are not used to working in hot conditions are most at risk of suffering heat-related illnesses. It is therefore important to acclimatise new workers to the conditions by gradually increasing the workload or giving them additional breaks when they first start working.



12 POINT CHECKLIST TO REDUCE HEAT RISKS

Use the following checklist to reduce the risks associated with working in the heat:

  1. If possible, schedule outdoor work early in the morning or late in the afternoon or evening to avoid the hottest times of the day
  2. Where possible, have workers work in a shaded area. Consider installing temporary sunshade equipment, such as awnings, shade cloths, umbrellas and tents
  3. Allow outdoor workers to rest in a shaded area when temperatures reach an unsafe level. This will vary depending on the humidity and exposure time
  4. Increase the number of breaks, or allow your workers to opt for additional breaks when they feel overheated
  5. Provide workers with water, and encourage them to stay hydrated
  6. If possible, isolate the heat source, e.g. with a temporary wall, during the period that most work is being performed
  7. Ensure your workers are wearing appropriate clothing e.g. hats and loose-fitting, breathable, long-sleeved shirts for outdoor work. Balance this with the risk that the clothes may be caught in a nip point of equipment the worker needs to use, such as a wood chipper
  8. Provide workers with sunscreen and encourage them to regularly apply it
  9. Avoid having your workers work in direct exposure to the sun or another heat source by relocating the work where possible
  10. Increase ventilation using air conditioners or fans
  11. Direct your workers to cease work once the temperature becomes too hot
  12. Have an emergency plan in place if there is a significant risk of a bushfire, including providing appropriate fire-fighting equipment

If heat could pose health and safety risks to your workers, implement controls using the hierarchy of control