Dealing with the Heat
As we head into Summer, planning now for the dangers of heat strain is a proactive approach that we all need to address.
There are no prescribed temperature maximums or minimums in work health and safety legislation and a risk management approach should be adopted in consultation with workers. This will involve exploring the hazards associated with working in these temperatures and what control measures can be implemented to keep the risk as low as reasonably practicable.
Comfort versus safety
When assessing the risks to workers, it is important to distinguish between a condition that threatens their health and safety and a feeling of discomfort. The risk to a worker increases as conditions move further away from an environment that is generally accepted as comfortable. Both personal and environmental factors should be considered.
Work should be carried out in an environment where a temperature range is comfortable for workers and suits the work they are carrying out.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Strain
Control options that can be considered to address extreme heat and minimise the potential heat strain injuries to workers include:
- allowing workers to start earlier to avoid the heat
- ensuring adequate drinking facilities and providing cool drinking water
- monitoring temperatures in the workplace
- increasing air movement by providing fans
- installing air conditioners to lower the air temperature
- encouraging workers to take regular rest breaks in cooler areas
- providing shade where possible if outdoors to protect from the sun
- installing screening across windows that let in the direct sun
- using a buddy system — working in pairs so that one worker can recognise the danger signs of heat stress in the other
- learning the signs and symptoms of heat-induced illnesses and injuries and training workers in these
- encouraging workers to wear appropriate clothing for hot and humid conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions
- providing workers with hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and sensible clothing for protection from the sun
- rotating workers or duties — scheduling heavy work and tasks that require the wearing of PPE for cooler times of the day
- developing a heat policy in consultation with workers and including exposure to heat in first aid and emergency procedures.
Further information on managing the risks of workers exposed to extremes of temperature is provided in the Code of Practice — Managing the Work Environment and Facilities available from Safe Work Australia. Other publications include:
- WorkSafe Victoria Guidance Note Working in heat
- Information on sun safety resources is available from the Cancer Council.