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Heat stress – know the facts to protect your workers

The start of 2024 has brought some hot and humid days to Queensland. Employers are reminded they must help prevent exposure to heat stress hazards and have plans in place to help keep workers safe from heat-related illness.

Heat stress can cause serious illness and be life threatening.

Heat stress is the total heat load on the body from multiple sources. Air temperature is only one contributing factor to the risk of heat-related illness. Other factors that should be considered when managing heat-related stress exposure at work include:

  • exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day
  • exposure to reflected/radiated heat from metals, glass, equipment, and hot work processes
  • individual and strenuous task requirements or work for sustained long periods
  • inadequate cooling off, rest periods, or insufficient water consumption
  • climatic conditions (e.g., low air movement, high humidity, high temperature)
  • clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) that reduces heat loss from the body
  • workers not being used to carrying out physical work in hot conditions
  • poor diet, vomiting, diarrhoea, or alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • fatigue related to inadequate or irregular sleep patterns.

The way heat affects people varies from person to person and can be influenced by general health, age, fitness level and pre-existing medical conditions.

A safe system of work should include an assessment of the environmental conditions at the workplace and the physical well-being of workers. A workplace should have an established and ongoing monitoring and supervision process for workers, especially during hot and humid weather.

The risk and severity of heat related illness will vary widely among workers, even under identical heat stress conditions.

The Heat Stress (basic) Calculator can be used as an assessment tool to help identify and manage risks of heat related illness.

Further information

Read more about managing heat stress, heat strain and heat related illness.