We shared a similar post to this a couple of years ago, and as we head into the summer of 2020/21, we thought it was time to share our tips for a safer workplace as the heat arrives across the country. Working safely is always a priority, so ensuring employers and employees understand the impacts hot and humid weather can have on safety is paramount.
This year, we’re experiencing La Nina weather patterns, which also means a lot more rain and slippery conditions amongst the scorching summer days.
WorkSafe QLD has an interesting tool available for employers who want a basic test for checking heat stress conditions too; which you can try for yourself here. This information should only ever be used as a guide.
Wear appropriate clothing.
Assuming staff are working outdoors, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, loose-fitting, long sleeves and trousers will give them protection from the sun. Although employees may protest at these requirements, it is a recommendation of WorkSafe QLD and a sensible option to reduce the risk of sunburn and heatstroke. Where possible, lighter colours are preferable to dark colours when it comes to protective clothing.
Employers who have staff who work outside should be providing SPF 50+ sunscreen for their staff, and they should be encouraging employees to reapply the sunscreen regularly. Providing the sunscreen makes it accessible for all employees, not just the ones who think to bring it themselves. Sunburn and heatstroke can both be serious issues, that are preventable and could result in a workers’ compensation claim.
Provide drinking water.
Providing access to drinking water helps to keep people hydrated who may not have brought water with them to work. Keeping hydrated is essential at this time of year. Young workers, in particular, may not know if it’s ok to stop for a drink, so ensuring it’s been communicated to all employees that taking the time to have a drink (not necessarily in an allotted ‘break’ time) is ok, is important. Encourage workers to bring their own bottles of water, with facilities to fill bottles up as required.
Provide access to shade.
Where possible, providing shaded areas or other shelters will help to keep employees cool whilst taking a break, assuming their workspace can’t be protected from the sun. Take into consideration whether the shaded area is in a convenient place and is actually getting used by staff.
Take regular breaks.
When it’s hot and humid, it’s important to take regular breaks to refuel. This may also include finding ways to share roles between those in the shade and those in the sun, to reduce anyone being in the sun for an extended period of time.
Talk to your staff.
Talk to your staff about the risks of heat stress and encourage to speak with their managers if they are concerned or are feeling unwell and potentially suffering from heat stress. Also, talk to your managers about the practices you should have in place for managing staff who have/are complaining of heat-related issues. Employees should be trained to identify heated-related illnesses, such as dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, breathlessness, clammy skin or difficulty remaining alert. A clear process and understanding of what to do, should they experience any of these symptoms is also important for safety outcomes.
WorkSafe QLD suggests the following issues can all contribute to heat stress at work:
- inadequate cooling off or rest periods and insufficient water consumption
- climatic conditions (low air movement, high humidity, high temperature)
- inappropriate clothing
- those that may cause dehydration such as poor diet, vomiting, diarrhoea or alcohol and caffeine consumption
- individual medical conditions such as heart problems, diabetes and hypertension
- individual medication that may affect the body’s temperature regulation
- increasing age, poor general physical fitness and overweight.
Employers should, as far as reasonably practicable, remove or reduce these risks for their employees. This could be through implementing the steps listed above, or by improving facilities, by say, providing air conditioning, or fans. Where it’s possible to reduce the temperature, this is generally a better outcome, than managing the effects of the high temperatures.
Talk to our team about how we can help you manage your employment and workplace health and safety needs.
*This is general information only and doesn’t take your specific needs into account.