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Heat stress real danger as Sunshine State set to sizzle

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With temperatures already consistently well above average and sizzling summer predicted, employers must protect their workers from heat stress.

Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Dr Simon Blackwood said with the mercury rising, employers need to plan ahead and make sure their workers have plenty of water on hand, and shade and rest periods are available to combat heat stress and dehydration.

"Bosses have an obligation to look after staff who are exposed to our heat and humidity at work to prevent heat-related illness," Dr Blackwood said.

"Employers have to make sure heat and sun protection is available and being used by their staff. They should also provide essential sun safety tips.

"But just as importantly, employees should speak up if they have any concerns about working in an unsafe, hot environment.

"If you or your workmates are struggling in excessive heat or high humidity, don’t hesitate – talk about it with your supervisor straight away."

Employers must ensure workers wear protective gear including a hat and sunscreen, take adequate breaks, seek shade and keep hydrated to prevent heat exhaustion, heat stroke, fainting and cramps.

To help work out if heat-induced illness is likely, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a heat stress tool on its website. The website also has advice on how to prevent heat stress.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland's Managing the work environment and facilities code of practice(PDF, 705.15 KB) provides guidance for managing the risks associated with outdoor work.

The risk is not only related to the temperature, but rather a combination of factors which contribute to heat-related problems at work. These include:

  • Exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day.
  • Exposure to reflected heat from construction materials, polished aluminium and glass.
  • Carrying out strenuous tasks or work for sustained long periods.
  • Exposure to additional heat from machinery.
  • Inadequate cooling off, rest periods or insufficient water consumption.
  • Climatic conditions (low air movement, high humidity, high temperature).
  • Inappropriate clothing.
  • Factors that may cause dehydration such as poor diet, vomiting, diarrhoea or alcohol and caffeine consumption.

For more information on protecting your workers this summer, visit www.worksafe.qld.gov.au or call 1300 362 128.

Ends.

To organise a one-on-one interview with Chief Advisor Occupational HygienePeter McGarry about the dangers of heat stress, contact OIR Media on 0478 33 22 00 or oirmedia@oir.qld.gov.au

*Safe Work Australia has just released a new guide for managing the risks of working in heat SWA Heat stress guide

Last updated
14 December 2017