Worksafe warns Victorians to guard against heat-related illnesses

With most of Victoria set to swelter in temperatures beyond 40 degrees this week, Worksafe Victoria is reminding business owners in Victoria to protect their employees and themselves against heat-related illness and injuries at work.

 With most of Victoria set to swelter in temperatures beyond 40 degrees this week, Worksafe Victoria is reminding business owners in Victoria to protect their employees and themselves against heat-related illness and injuries at work.

Victorian WorkCover Authority Health and Safety Director Jarrod Edwards said that employers and their team members need to work smart to prevent heat-related illnesses.

“If you or your employees are working outdoors, look out for one another and look out for signs and symptoms such as heat stroke, fainting, heat exhaustion, cramps, rashes (also called prickly heat) and fatigue,” Edwards said. “If you are feeling sick, nauseous, dizzy or weak, stop work and hydrate. Heat-related illnesses arise when the body is unable to properly cope with high temperatures.

“It is important to drink a cup of water (approximately 200ml) every 15 to 20 minutes and wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and loose cotton shirts with collars and sleeves will also provide you with protection from the hot sun. Practical solutions such as using fans or air conditioning to increase air flow, erecting shade cloth to reduce heat on work areas and providing regular rest and drink breaks can assist in preventing heat-related illnesses.”

Edwards warned that high temperatures can affect the decision making process, meaning mistakes and potentially accidents and injuries are an increased reality in Victorian workplaces this week. Workplace health and safety laws require the working environment to be safe and without risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This applies to any risk to health and safety, including illness from working in heat.

“Practical actions to prevent heat illness include modifying workloads, keeping well hydrated and wearing suitable personal protective equipment,” he said. Others ways to manage the risks associated with high temperatures at work include:

  • Reschedule work so strenuous tasks are performed during the cooler part of the day;
  • Wear light clothing that still provides adequate protection;
  • Reduce the time spent doing strenuous tasks (for example, by rotating jobs or by arranging more employees to do the job);
  • Provide extra rest breaks in a cool area;
  • Provide cool drinking water near the work site and encourage your employees to take more breaks;
  • Use mechanical aids to reduce physical exertion; and
  • Provide workers with information, instruction and training to manage fatigue and illness associated with high temperatures.

For more information on working in heat, read this document.

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