Working in Heat


You probably don't need to be told that Australian summers can be very harsh, and heat stress and heat exhaustion are real risks to a number of Australian workers.

It is important to understand that one person's 'too hot' is another person's 'perfect', and that heat impacts on every body in different ways depending on age, general fitness, duties, clothing, etc., plus weather variables such as wind and humidity.

There is no perfect way of managing working in heat but Section 19 of the WHS Act 2012 requires all Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking to take a risk management approach to all occupational risk, including working in heat.

Conducting a risk assessment to identify the risks associated with heat is the first step, followed by assessing how those risks can be managed. Management of the risk may include:

Down tools at a certain temperature;

Start shift early/later when temperatures are lower;

Provision of heat breaks

Provision of cool (not cold) water

Provision of isotonic drinks to replace essential electrolytes excreted through perspiration

Provide mobile fans

Provision of shaded areas for workers to escape sun

Provision of cool room for workers to escape heat

If things do go wrong and a worker suffers from heat stroke or exhaustion, here's a guide on what to do:

Heat rash

  • Keep the affected area dry.

  • Try using unperfumed talcum powder to increase comfort.

  • Avoid using ointments or creams, as they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse.

Heat cramps

  • Increase fluid intake.

  • Rest for several hours before returning to activity.

  • Seek medical help if there's no improvement.

Dizziness and fainting

  • Get the person to a cool area and lay them down.

  • If fully conscious and no signs of heat stroke, increase fluid intake.

Heat exhaustion

  • Get the person to a cool area and lay them down.

  • Remove outer clothing.

  • Wet skin with cool water or wet cloths.

  • Increase fluid intake if they're fully conscious and show no signs of heat stroke.

  • Seek medical advice.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and requires urgent attention:

  • Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

  • Get the person to a cool, shady area and lay them down while you're waiting for emergency medical help.

  • Remove clothing and wet skin with water, fanning continuously.

  • Do not give the person fluids to drink.

  • Position an unconscious person on their side and clear their airway.

  • If medical attention is delayed, seek further instructions from ambulance or hospital emergency staff.

(Source: http://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/heat-stress-and-heat-related-illness)

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