Don’t underestimate this risk to workers

By Michael Selinger on October 19th, 2017
  1. Workplace Health and Safety
  2. Workplace Health

AS SUMMER approaches, many businesses understand the risks of exposing outdoor workers to the dangers of UV rays and will reduce that risk by issuing them with sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, protective clothing, and the like. But is your business aware of the dangers associated with heat?

Health & Safety Handbook Editor-In-Chief Michael Selinger helps you to protect your workers this summer with these tips.

As temperatures rise in the next few months, is your business is ready to protect your workers from the risk associated with dehydration and fatigue?

ABC News recently reported on the work being done by Occupational Heat Stress Consultant Matt Brearley in the Northern Territory which confirmed that the significant risks posed to workers from hot weather are often underestimated. Dr Brearley gave outdoor workers an indigestible pill that tracked their core body temperature in real time.

Dr Brearley found that the effects of prolonged heat exposure can be widespread. In particular, the sustained heat exposure can lead to a condition known as a heat hangover, which results in headaches, nausea, lethargy, irritability, fatigue and poor appetite.

While some workers may acclimatise or be more able to manage higher levels of heat due to age or fitness, the effects, such as irritability and fatigue, can be long-lasting and don’t simply resolve at the end of the heat exposure.

The safety regulators recommend that employers:

  • encourage staff to take more breaks;
  • use mechanical aids to reduce physical activity and exertion in the heat;
  • supervise your workers to detect the signs of fatigue and heat stroke;
  • make sure your workers are fully informed about the risks of working in the heat, including identifying the signs of fatigue and heatstroke;
  • provide workers with suitable hats, clothing and summer protection;
  • ensure there is adequate water available to keep workers hydrated;
  • plan the day to prioritise strenuous work during the cooler periods of the day and less strenuous tasks in the warmer periods; and
  • ensure there are additional rest breaks during the day, particularly in a cool or shaded area;

There are also safety risks working indoors or in confined spaces during heatwaves, especially when  workers are operating machinery or vehicles without adequate ventilation or air conditioning. Risks from heat also exist when workers are travelling or working for significant periods in vehicles.

Don’t forget about UV

The duty to protect your workers also extends to risks arising from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

Sun Smart Australia, a Victorian program aimed at reducing the occurrence of skin cancer, notes on its website that 512 Victorians died from skin cancer in 2015, which was more than twice the State road toll.

This means your business should:

  • assess the potential for your workers to be exposed to UV rays over significant periods and at what level;
  • introduce a policy to deal with the control of exposure to UV rays and train staff;
  • provide workers with suitable clothing and UV protection;

The heat is on

Business owners have a duty to provide a safe workplace to their employees and planning how to help your workforce cope with the summer heat is part of this duty.

Fully understanding how protect your workers can be challenging. That’s why you need your copy of the Health & Safety Handbook – full of know-how and help to ensure your company policies meet your workers’ needs.

Written in plain English by the health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich, the handbook covers topics such as:

  • O1 Office Safety
  • F3 Fatigue Management;
  • W3 Working Environment
  • P3 Plant Safety Management
  • R3 Risk Assessment

These are just five of the 70-plus chapters you’ll find in the Handbook, covering the A-Z of workplace health and safety. Each chapter has hints, tips, checklists and step-by-step instructions to help make your job easier.

Order the Health & Safety Handbook today and put it to work at your business on an obligation-free trial. Show your workers you take safety seriously this Safe Work Month.

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