As we head into summer, the days get longer, warmer and where we are, on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, more humid too! Working safely is always a priority, so ensuring employers and employees understand the impacts hot weather can have on safety is paramount. We’ve compiled a few tips to help your team get through summer.
- Wear appropriate clothing.
Assuming staff are working outdoors, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and trousers will give them the protection from the sun. Although employees may protest at these requirements, it is a recommendation of WorkCover and a sensible option to reduce the risk of sunburn and heatstroke.
- Wear sunscreen.
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, which can be avoided, rather than resulting 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.
- 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.
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.
Complementary to implementing improvements in your workplace to reduce these risks, 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.
Talk to our team about how we can help you manage your employment and workplace health and safety needs.