Working in hot temperatures is not only unpleasant, but it can also be fatal.
Heat illness can be induced by a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to:
- physically demanding jobs that need extended durations of exertion in hot and humid conditions (for example, firefighters, roofers, construction, industrial, and agriculture)
- use of personal protective equipment such as full-body protective suits, many layers of clothing, or respiratory protective equipment
- direct sunlight exposure in outdoor jobs such as agriculture or construction
- dealing with radiant heat created by sources such as fire, heated work conditions (for example, foundries or steel mills), road surfaces, and roof heat
- working in high-humidity areas such as laundries and industrial kitchens
- working in tropical or coastal places with significant humidity due to the surrounding climate.
As we gear up for the hot summer months, remember that in hot conditions, unacclimatised workers are more likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses. The human body needs time to adjust and acclimatise to high temperatures and unacclimatised people have a lower tolerance to heat stress. They are more vulnerable to heat-related disorders such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can have serious implications. Employers must offer proper training, acclimatisation time, and preventive measures to keep unacclimatised personnel safe from heat-related illnesses.
Working in heat has no safe or harmful temperature limit. Unfortunately, workers exposed to hot conditions can suffer from both acute and long-term problems if not treated or managed properly.
Individuals may react differently to heat exposure; therefore, effective risk management and prevention techniques are critical when dealing with heat in the workplace. Heat strain can interfere with the body's natural cooling mechanisms, increasing the risk of heat-related disorders such heat rash, heat cramps, disorientation, fainting, heat exhaustion, and in severe cases, heat stroke, which necessitates emergency medical intervention.
Remember, it is important to recognise that while you cannot control the weather, as an employer or manager, you have a responsibly to control the work environment to ensure the safety and well-being of your workers.
You can find out more information on heat stress a the links below:
- Heat stress
- Use the Heat Stress Calculator to assist in calculating risk.
- Download SafeWork Australia’s Guide for managing the risks of working in heat and train your workers if they are likely to be working in hot environments or conditions.
- Watch Heat stress management - you're doing it wrong! video.
- For information on identifying health hazards in the workplace, use the Healthy workplace audit tool.