Given the Bureau of Meteorology’s recent statement advising that 2018 is the third hottest year on record, it’s even more important that we understand the risks of heat on our body, and how we can help prevent heat-related illness.
We all have a duty of care to manage risks of Working in Heat. Employers are encouraged to ensure workers wear protective gear, including a hat and sunscreen, take adequate breaks, use shade and keep hydrated to prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke, fainting and cramps.
We also need to be mindful that working in heat isn’t just an outdoor problem, it can be in any hot environment including; kitchens, laundries, warehouses, roof cavities, and the list goes on.
The New South Wales Regulator has released a statement warning that working in hot conditions can cause a range of WHS related issues “including the loss of grip when handling objects due to sweaty hands, mistakes, slips or falls” caused by heat fatigue or fainting. The regulator also reminds us that heat illnesses can be incapacitating or fatal.
We advise that all employers should identify hazards in consultation with workers, WHS reps and other PCBU’s to minimise risks at this time of year.
Facts about Heat
What is the difference between heat stress and heat strain?
Heat stress is the total heat load on the body from all sources, and heat strain is how the body responds to heat stress.
What many don’t know, is that heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster, which is why it’s so important to recognise the signs of heat stress and also use preventative measures as listed in our poster.
Some of the most common signs of heat stress include:
- Normal responses, i.e. sweating
- Dehydration / elevated core temperature
- Heat rash / heat cramps
- Dizziness & fainting
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke — Seek urgent medical attention immediately
What is the difference between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?
Heat exhaustion is a serious state that can lead to heat stroke. It happens when blood volume is reduced due to excessive perspiration in a hot environment.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires urgent action. It happens when the bodies core temperature rises over 40.5 °C. This is when the body’s internal systems start to shut down and many of the organs suffer damage. If treatment is delayed it can be fatal..
Did you know that not everyone reacts to heat in the same way?
The way heat affects people varies from person to person and is influenced by:
- General health
- Body weight
- A low level of fitness
- Certain prescription and illicit drug use
- Medical conditions
At Recovery Partners we can assist you with a site-specific WHS/OHS plan with heat-related risk assessments and management plans.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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