WorkSafe issues heat stress warning

WorkSafe is reminding workplaces to take necessary steps to protect workers from heat stress during the summer months.

“It’s not just working outside in heatwave conditions, but also exposure to constant high temperatures in indoor workplaces like foundries that can result in heat stress or even heat stroke,” WorkSafe WA Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said.

“Workplace safety laws require an employer to ensure workers are not exposed to hazards and this includes, as far as is practicable, protecting employees from extremes in temperature,” Mr. Kavanagh said.

“The increased sweating caused by heat depletes the body’s fluids and can lead to the symptoms of heat stress – tiredness, irritability, inattention, and muscular cramps.

“Apart from the obvious physical discomfort of these symptoms, they may increase the risk of workplace injuries by taking a worker’s attention away from the task at hand, and this is a major concern.”

Workers exposed to extreme heat can lose up to a litre of fluid every hour, and it is vital that this lost fluid is replaced.

Heat stress can be avoided by drinking water at frequent intervals, taking adequate breaks and helping sweat evaporate by increasing air circulation.

Reorganise work schedules so outdoor tasks are carried out early in the morning and late in the day to avoid peak temperatures. It is also advisable to wear loose clothing to allow air to circulate.

Heat stroke is a far more serious condition that must be treated immediately.

The signs of heat stroke are cessation in sweating, high body temperature, and hot and dry skin.  Confusion and loss of consciousness may occur.

Until medical treatment is available, the person should be cooled down as quickly as possible by methods such as soaking clothing in cold water and increasing air movement by fanning.

“The effects of extreme or sustained heat can seriously affect a worker’s concentration levels, and the consequences can be very serious,” Mr. Kavanagh said.

“Guarding against heat stress and heat stroke is part of providing a safe and healthy workplace, and I urge employers to ensure that preventative measures are in place.”

Further information on working in hot conditions can be obtained by telephoning WorkSafe on 1300 307877.

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