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Ask a specialist…Employees’ safety when working in the heat.

Ask the specialistJanuary 5, 2017

Ask a specialist…Employees’ safety when working in the heat. (Last Updated On: January 5, 2017)

As the weather heats up, Employsure is urging employers to have plans in place to prevent workers suffering from heat stress, heat illness and other issues related to working in heat. Heat can reduce concentration, judgment and reaction time causing a potential increase in the risk of worker injury. These concerns are particularly relevant for those who work outdoors and in other hot environments such as roof spaces or other confined areas.

Employers need to be proactive and make plans to protect their workers from the risks of working in the heat. They are required to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers who are exposed to extreme temperatures can carry out their work without risk to their health and safety.

So what can you do to minimise the risks to your outdoor workers?

Safe Work Australia and the various state work health and safety regulators provide guidance material that employers can use to minimise the risks to their workers. For example, the model Code of Practice: Managing the Work Environment and Facilities from Safe Work Australia provides practical steps to manage the risks of working in extreme temperatures.

Some of the practical tips you can use to reduce the risk to your workers include:

  • postponing or rescheduling tasks to cooler parts of the day such as early morning or late afternoon
  • relocating work to cooler areas
  • ensuring workers wear adequate sun protection in all outdoor conditions
  • providing clothing with a UPF 50+ rating and broad spectrum sunscreen SPF30+
  • utilising mechanical aids to assist with manual tasks
  • providing clean and cool drinking water, free of charge (at least 200ml every 15 to 20 minutes)
  • carefully considering and planning for job rotation and regular rest breaks
  • providing a cool area in which workers may take their breaks
  • considering a buddy system whereby workers keep an eye out for each other on hot days

Further, workers should always have access to first aid, regardless of where they are working. It is also important to train workers that frequently work in extreme temperatures on how to recognise the symptoms of heat-related illnesses (such as dizziness, general weakness, collapse and heat stroke) and appropriate first aid.

If you have a general question that you would like answered by one of our specialists and included in The Bottom Line, please submit it to [email protected].

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