The inability of the body to adequately cool itself can lead to heat illness. Several factors contribute to this, including the following:
- The volume of airflow that is present
- The temperature that is radiated from the surrounding environment
- Apparel or clothing
- Engaging in sports and other forms of exercise (metabolic heat load).
Heat illness is a general term that refers to several different medical disorders that might develop if the body cannot adequately adapt to working in hot environments. Let’s take a look at the potential side effects that could occur as a result of working in the heat.
What Are Some Of The Most Typical Side Effects Of Working In The Heat?
Workers are at risk of injury when exposed to high temperatures. The average human body temperature should be about 37° Celsius.
Workers can get sick from the heat if their body overheats or needs to work too hard to regulate their temperature. Fainting, heat rash, cramps, and heat stroke are all manifestations of this progressive heat-related illness.
Heat has many negative consequences on workers, including:
- Heat rash, which can cause itching and discomfort to the skin.
- Heat cramps are brought on by excessive perspiration and a lack of salt and electrolyte replacement.
- Fainting, especially while standing or rising from a seated position.
- There’s a risk of dehydration due to increased sweating if workers aren’t taking in enough fluids.
- When the body stops being able to cool itself, heat stroke sets in, ultimately, this could prove lethal.
- Contact with hot surfaces or instruments poses a risk of burns to workers.
- Slips, as workers are more likely to sweat in hot environments, heightening the danger of slips. For instance, a worker’s hands could become slippery when handling equipment if they sweat.
- Difficulty concentrating because of the heat, which might lead to misunderstandings. Workers may be less careful with machinery and more likely to make mistakes.
- The heat also alters how the body absorbs chemicals, which can amplify the negative effects of certain drugs.
Who Is Responsible For Health And Safety Issues?
According to Safe Work Australia guidelines, Everyone in work, including the person managing a business or enterprise, officers, workers, and other individuals (like visitors), has health and safety responsibilities. Let us look at the tasks they have in terms of health and safety:
A person managing a business or enterprise (PCBUs) must ensure, as far as is reasonably feasible, that employees, including volunteers and other individuals, are not exposed to health and safety risks caused by the business or agency. Health and safety hazards must be managed by eliminating them to the greatest extent.
- PCBUs must consult workers:
- When identifying hazards and analysing health and safety risks deriving from work performed or to be performed by the business or undertaking.
- While determining how to remove or reduce those hazards.
- When determining the sufficiency of facilities for worker well-being, and
- When monitoring the conditions at any workplace managed or controlled by the PCBU.
- A PCBU must assure, to the greatest extent possible, the following:
- Ventilation allows workers to work without jeopardising their health and safety.
- Working in extremely hot or cold conditions doesn’t endanger employees’ health and safety.
An officer (such as a firm director) has a duty of care to see that the company or organisation they are responsible for complies with the WHS Act and the WHS Regulations. This involves doing what may be reasonably expected to reduce or eliminate the hazards to health and safety inside the business or undertaking, such as acquiring and putting appropriate resources and procedures into use.
Workers are accountable for their well-being and ensure that their actions do not compromise the well-being of others on the job. Workers must comply with reasonable instructions and cooperate with good health and safety rules or procedures that have been communicated to them.
Suppose the business or organisation provides personal protective equipment (PPE). In that case, the worker must use or wear it following the information, instruction, and training supplied to the extent that they can reasonably do so.
Other individuals at the workplace, such as visitors, must take appropriate precautions for their health and safety and avoid negatively affecting the health and safety of others. They must follow the PCBU’s reasonable directions to the best of their ability so that the PCBU can meet its WHS obligations. If the company or organisation provides PPE, everyone in the workplace should wear it properly according to the instructions and training they’ve received.
How To Manage The Risks Of Working In Heat
Protecting workers and others from the dangers of working in hot conditions necessitates taking the following measures to the fullest extent that is practically achievable:
1. Recognise The Risk
Heat is a problem in many Australian workplaces, whether the task is done inside or outside. Consider the following to determine if it is a hazard in your workplace:
- Air temperature
- Moisture or humidity in the air
- Circulation of air
- All sources of radiant heat
- Job Requirements
- Employees, and
- Place of employment
Talking to employees, health and safety representatives, and other responsibility holders can help uncover workplace hazards. To find out if heat is a problem in the workplace, you may also enquire with other similar organisations. You can learn more about potential hazards in the workplace by reviewing reports of near-misses, mishaps, and injuries.
2. Evaluate the hazard
An evaluation of risks can assist in determining the following:
- The degree to which the risk exists
- Whether the current efforts for control are effective
- What steps to take to mitigate the danger, and
- The urgency with which you must act
The following factors are important to think about while evaluating the risk:
- What are the potential consequences of the risk, and
- Whether or not the risk is likely to result in harm.
The amount of heat a worker feels will vary depending on the individual worker, their work, and their location.
The following should be taken into account when evaluating the dangers posed by high temperatures:
Where The Job Is Being Done:
- The risk of heat-related sickness increases while working close to a heat source and in an enclosed location with poor ventilation (such as a roof cavity).
- When working in direct sunlight, especially on a concrete or metal roof, or close to hot equipment or operations (such as in a furnace, kitchen, or industrial workplace), it is possible to experience incredibly high radiant temperatures.
- Working in excessive humidity can make it harder to cool down over the day.
Nature Of The Work:
- Even in settings that aren’t exceptionally hot, the danger of getting sick from the heat increases when one engages in strenuous physical activity, particularly for an extended period.
- Some employees may be unable to pace their work and may be more vulnerable to the heat. It has been found that employees whose salary is based on their performance are less likely to slow down their pace to avoid exhaustion.
- Heat may also impair concentration, especially when performing challenging or complex jobs.
- Clothing, such as personal protective equipment, uniforms, and standard dress, can hinder sweat evaporation and raise the risk of heat-related sickness.
- It may take an apprentice longer to do a job, or they may need to learn how to work safely. If they are exposed to heat over an extended period, their supervisor may also be at risk.
- Physical endurance and the ability to adapt to the existing working conditions.
Whether Or Not An Employee Has Provided Any Information Suggesting They May Be At Risk For Heat-Related Sicknesses, Such As:
- Using non-prescribed pharmaceuticals or prescription drugs like diuretics.
- Being pregnant.
- Diagnosed with conditions that require attention, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or fever.
- Previous history of heat illness.
- For instance, workers on a fluid-restricted diet are at a higher risk of dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
- Younger (under the age of 25) or older (aged 55 or more).
- Coming back to work after an extended leave; could be the case for a fly-in, fly-out employee or a worker who has been out due to an event.
In addition to this, take into consideration the potential effects that heat waves could have. A heat wave occurs when maximum and lowest temperatures are unusually high for at least three days.
Heat Waves May Put Workers At Greater Risk Because:
- Less restful sleep due to warmer evenings.
- Higher temperatures occurring earlier in the day and lasting longer;
- A decrease in productivity and safety as a result of exhaustion.
3. Manage the risk
It would help if you did all reasonably possible to reduce the dangers of working in the heat. Where it is impossible to eliminate risk, you must minimise it to the greatest extent possible. When controlling risks, you should work your way up the control structure.
Use any combination of the following methods:
- Replace the risk with a less dangerous alternative
- Isolate the potential threat, and
- Implement engineering control measures
If risks persist, you must reduce them as far as is reasonably practical through administrative control methods.
Any residual dangers should be mitigated using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Heat poses a risk to employees and might be caused by factors besides the weather. A control strategy that employs multiple measures may prove optimal.
Here are a few measures to lessen the impact of working in high temperatures:
Elimination Control Methods
- The first step is to determine if a hazard can be eliminated. You may postpone some tasks until the heat wave ends.
- Consider whether automated equipment or processes can be used to access hot areas. A drone, for example, could be used to inspect a fire scene.
- Workers may also employ automated or remote-controlled machinery to avoid physically taxing manual labour.
- If it’s impossible to eliminate the danger, the risk should be reduced as much as possible.
- Replacement is substituting or swapping a hazard or hazardous work practice with a safer one. Consider substituting machine-readable work with manual labour. Use a crane or forklift to move huge goods or an earthmoving plant to dig.
- Work should be done in a cooler setting whenever possible. For instance, materials can be prefabricated in factories that have air conditioning.
Control Measures For Isolation
Isolation requires physically removing the cause of harm from individuals via distance or barriers.
One good practice would be to keep workers away from any machinery that generates heat. Use physical barriers such as cones and fencing to mark the location of the hot machinery.
Implement Engineering Control Measures
An engineering control is a physical measure such as a mechanical device or process. For instance:
- Instal tents for shade.
- Set up mechanical cooling, like an air conditioner.
- Instal insulation in buildings and cladding on radiant heat sources. Use barriers, guards and shields to separate yourself from hot machinery or surfaces.
- Ensure that there is adequate ventilation in your work area. In humid climates, it is recommended to use ventilation methods such as opening windows and fans.
- It is important to use local exhaust ventilation to remove hot air or steam from high-temperature activities.
- Provide air-conditioned, shady, or cool rest spaces as close as feasible to the work site.
- It is recommended to let the plant cool down before using it to reduce radiant heat, and
- Make sure that refreshing cold water is easily accessible and electrolyte solutions in case of need.
When it comes to the safety and health of employees, those in charge of the workplace must do everything in their power to ensure that any pipes or other parts of the plant connected to heat or cold are properly guarded or insulated.
Administrative Control Measures
Work practises and procedures that reduce exposure to a hazard, along with the necessary education, training, and guidance for people to perform their jobs safely, are examples of administrative control measures.
It includes training and instructions such as:
- Determine any risks linked with heat and heat-related illness and report them.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and how to avoid them.
- Recognise their own and others’ symptoms of heat-related illness.
- If required, get assistance.
- Maintain concern for one another’s health.
- Those working in hot conditions should reduce their workload and take more frequent breaks.
- Drink enough water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Understand the potential side effects of diuretic beverages.
- Recognise your risk factors.
- Be familiar with acclimatisation and the risks associated with working in high temperatures when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can work well with higher-level controls to reduce the risks of working in the heat. The employer should adjust uniform or dress code standards so employees can wear lighter, more breathable apparel. Take into consideration supplying the following:
- Clothing that is breathable and has a loose fit.
- Water-cooled clothing, air-cooled clothing, cooling vests, and wetted clothing are all wearable personal cooling systems.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)needed for specific jobs can significantly raise the danger of heat exhaustion. Examples of such items include masks and other protective equipment that can act as thermal blankets. It’s important to consider not only the PPE being provided but also the worker’s activity rate, acclimatisation level, ambient conditions, and the time that person spends in PPE.
Safety Against The Sun’s UV Rays
While heat illness and exposure to solar UVR are two distinct risks, the same personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to shield you from the sun can also keep you safe from the effects of the heat. When working outside, it is important to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays by wearing protective gear. The design must consider the necessity for shade and ventilation in warm weather.
Sun protection equipment consists of the following:
- Clothing designed to shield workers from the sun
- Hats with UV protection
- A pair of sunglasses
Acclimatisation is how a person’s body adjusts to high temperatures. One of the benefits of acclimatisation is that it can help a person sweat more effectively, allowing them to regulate their body temperature better.
Always remember that there is a limit to the degree to which the human body can adapt and that this is not a foolproof regulation method. Talk to a specialist like an occupational hygienist before starting an acclimatisation programme to reduce the dangers of working in hot environments.
Working in hot conditions increases the risk of dehydration. Dehydration might manifest as decreased urine flow or a darker colour. Your employees must be encouraged to stay hydrated by providing clean, cold water. Keep in mind that replacing fluid loss comes after satisfying thirst.
Oral electrolyte replacement therapy, such as sports drinks containing salt and potassium, can treat dehydration. In cases of extreme dehydration or when in doubt, it’s best to get medical help.
3. Evaluate the preventative measures
You must review control measures to ensure they are working as planned and not adding any new risks that can’t be controlled. For instance, if workers take off their protective gear to cool down, they may be put in danger from toxins or ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
You can gauge the success of the preventative measures by consulting with workers and their representatives if any. Additionally, think about the following:
- Involvement of workers in identifying hazards and prioritising preventative measures
- If there has been a rise or fall in incidence, then
- If any potentially useful data or tools have recently become available.
When there are issues with the safeguards put in place to manage risks, it’s necessary to start the procedure over again.
Clothes For Working In Hot Conditions
Clothes that are appropriate for working in hot conditions in Australia include:
Lightweight T-Shirts: Made of breathable, lightweight materials to keep you cool and dry.
Breathable Shorts: Made of lightweight, quick-drying materials that allow air to circulate.
Sun Hat: Provides shade for the face and neck while allowing air to circulate.
Sunglasses: Protects the eyes from harmful UV rays and glare.
Lightweight Gloves: Protects the hands while allowing air to circulate.
Breathable Boots: Protects the feet while allowing air to circulate.
Hydration Pack:Holds water and other beverages to keep you hydrated while working
It is essential to be aware that additional protective gear, such as hard hats and high-visibility vests, may be necessary to wear in some hazardous working conditions.
Products For Working in Extreme Heat
Products that keep you cool, hydrated, and safe from heat-related illnesses are essential for anyone working in Australia’s harsh heat. Safe Work Australia has endorsed the following products:
Cooling Towels or Bandanas: Bandanas and cooling cloths can be soaked in the water around the neck to bring down high body temperatures.
Portable Fans or Misting Systems: Using portable fans or misting systems can deliver a refreshing blast of cool air or mist to keep workers comfortable in hot environments.
Hard Hat with Sun Visor: A hard hat with a built-in sun visor can protect the head and face from the sun when working in dangerous areas.
High-Visibility Gear: Clothing with luminous strips or a high-visibility vest can increase worker visibility and safety in hot environments.
Sunscreen: A high SPF (30 or higher) should be applied regularly to protect the skin from dangerous UV rays.
UV-Protective Arm Sleeves: These sleeves shield workers’ arms from the sun’s rays and the heat of the workplace.
In addition to using these products, taking other precautions, such as taking frequent breaks, drinking enough water, and finding shade wherever possible, when working in hot conditions, is vital.
What Temperature Can You Legally Leave Work In Australia?
Safe Work Australia does not specify a specific legal temperature at which it is considered too hot to work. Instead, the organisation provides guidelines for employers to manage the risks of heat stress and heat-related illness in the workplace.
You can find these guidelines on the Safe Work Australia website. The guidelines recommend that employers protect workers from heat stress when temperatures exceed 32°C, and the humidity is high.
In these conditions, workers may be at risk of heat stroke, exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses.
Employers are responsible for assessing the risks to workers and implementing measures to control those risks. This may include providing access to shade, water, rest breaks and appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing.
If the temperature is extremely high, employers may also need to adjust work hours or change the nature of the work to minimise the risk of heat-related illness.
Australia’s Laws On Working In Heat
Australian law requires that businesses protect their workers from heat-related illness and injury. The applicable laws and regulations can differ from state to state. Still, generally speaking, employers are expected to comply with the following:
- Determine the potential dangers to workers from high temperatures and take appropriate action to mitigate them.
- Give workers access to shade, water, and the right clothes and tools to protect them from the heat.
- Provide staff instructions on the dangers of heat exposure and how to prevent heat illness.
- Work should be scheduled during the cooler portions of the day, breaks should be taken in a cool, well-ventilated place, and workers should be given time to acclimatise to hotter temperatures gradually.
- Employees should be monitored for indicators of heat illness, and appropriate action should be taken if any symptoms are identified.
Employees must also take reasonable precautions for their health and safety and follow any instructions given by the employer to avoid heat exposure. They should notify their employer if they have any concerns about heat exposure and get medical assistance if they encounter signs of heat illness.
Fair Work Australia Heat Policy
The Fair Work Commission, formerly known as Fair Work Australia, is Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal. They do not have a specific policy on working in the heat but address this issue through the National Employment Standards and general health and safety regulations.
Here is a general outline of the guidelines for working in the heat in Australia:
- Employers must offer a safe working environment for their employees, including protection from high temperatures.
- Employers must assess the danger of heat stress in the workplace and take precautions to reduce it.
- Employers must provide their employees with adequate drinking water, rest, and shade.
- Employees need to be informed of the risks of heat stress and the measures that can be taken to avoid it.
- Employers must monitor employees for signs of heat stress and, if necessary, give medical assistance.
It should be noted that these rules are not legally enforceable and may differ from state to state; therefore, it is best to review the relevant requirements for the state where you operate.
What Preventative Steps May Be Taken To Ensure The Well-Being Of Workers In The Workplace?
Here are some of the many workplace safety training methods that can be implemented. The objective is to provide workers with the skills and information required to maintain a safe working environment while performing their jobs.
- Safety signs are a great way to alert workers to potential risks and remind them to be vigilant. Many signs warn of danger or remind people to put on safety gear.
- Educating employees on the dangers of asbestos. Asbestos is a dangerous material that, if inhaled, can cause major health problems. Workers must understand the risks and take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure.
- Employees can be educated on the dangers of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat-related illnesses, the dangers of sun exposure, and how to protect themselves from damaging UV rays through heat and UV exposure safety training.
- Certain fields are especially vulnerable to the threats that cold weather can bring. Employees who work outside, for example, may need to know how to operate equipment properly in icy weather.
- Inhaling dust from concrete, stone or wood dust might be hazardous. Training on avoiding exposure and properly using protective gear is required for employees working in these sectors.
- The processes of dogging, rigging, and lifting are examples of jobs that call for particular knowledge and skill sets. Employees who do these duties must be taught proper technique and equipment use to avoid accidents and injuries.
How Can Heat Preventive Measures Help Traffic Controllers, Builders, and Construction Workers?
- Improved Health and Safety: Workers will feel more confident and secure at work by lowering the danger of heat-related illnesses.
- Improved Physical Condition: Employees will have more energy and be better equipped to carry out their work responsibilities if they maintain good hydration and rest habits.
- Increased Productivity: Workers will be more productive and less likely to miss work if heat-related illnesses and injuries are avoided.
- Enhanced Work Satisfaction: Employees feel valued and supported when their business safeguards their health and well-being.
- Improved Regulation Compliance: By employing heat prevention measures, employers will comply with relevant health and safety standards, lowering the danger of penalties or fines.
- Improved Reputation: Focusing on employee well-being can help an organisation’s reputation and attract new employees and customers.
- Boosted Morale And Confidence: Employees will feel more motivated and engaged if they know their employer is taking precautions to preserve their health and safety.
How Can Training For Working In Heat Help Make Construction Ready Packages?
Working in heat training can aid in the development of a construction ready package in Australia, as detailed below:
- Working in heat training helps ensure compliance with relevant health and safety standards, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004), which requires businesses to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment.
- Working in Heat Training provides workers with the information and abilities to recognise the risks associated with working in high temperatures, such as heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
- Workers trained in heat can implement heat management procedures such as taking frequent breaks, drinking plenty of water, and wearing proper clothing, lowering the risk of heat-related illness and injury.
- Working in heat training documentation in the construction-ready package proves to regulators and stakeholders that the construction project is managed safely and per the relevant requirements.
Working in heat training aims to reduce the dangers of working in high temperatures, assuring the health and safety of construction employees.
Does The White Card Course Cover Heat Prevention?
Workers in Australia’s construction industry must complete a White Card course covering general health and safety procedures, including heat management.
The degree to which preventative heat measures are included in the course varies depending on the training provider. Still, it is usually included as part of the overall health and safety training.
The goal of the White Card training is to familiarise workers with fundamental safety measures and understand the hazards associated with working in the construction sector. This involves awareness of the hazards of working in hot weather and avoiding heat-related illnesses and accidents.
Learning about heat prevention measures will help international students and other construction employees understand how to protect themselves from heat-related diseases and injuries when working on construction sites.
If students fail the White Card training, they must retake the course and pass the evaluation to receive their White Card. Workers must understand health and safety regulations, including heat prevention measures, to safeguard their safety and the safety of others on construction sites.
Why Are First Aid And White Card Training Required For Heat Stress Prevention?
Heat stress prevention necessitates first aid and White Card training since it is an important part of health and safety in the building and construction industry.
First aid training is critical in an emergency. It provides prompt care to personnel suffering from heat-related illnesses or accidents.First-aid training abilities can help save lives and lessen the severity of injuries.
White Card training gives workers in the construction industry basic health and safety training, including knowledge on how to spot and prevent heat-related illnesses and accidents. Workers will be better able to protect themselves and others on construction sites if they are aware of these hazards.
Workplace safety and health can be improved when employees across all sectors have received basic first aid and white card training. Employees with these credentials are better prepared to handle workplace crises and adhere to safety protocols, which protect them and their coworkers.You should contact an accredited first aid provider to learn about white card training.
Workplace Heat Stress First Aid
The following are the general steps for administering heat stress first aid at work:
- Take the patient somewhere cool and shady.
- Remove any clothing that is too tight or unneeded.
- Offer them refreshing cool water to drink or use to dampen their skin.
- You can help cool the person’s skin by increasing airflow to their body with a fan.
- Monitor the person’s condition and offer comfort until medical assistance arrives or the person feels better.
It’s vital to note that in severe cases of heat stress, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, the person may need medical assistance, so call Triple Zero (000) if necessary.
Employers must also have a heat stress policy in place, educate employees on the dangers of heat stress and how to prevent it, and have processes in place for responding to heat stress occurrences, including giving first aid if necessary.