WorkSafe warns on heat stress at work as temperatures soar in Western Australia

IMAGE: TOM WANG / SHUTTERSTOCK
IMAGE: TOM WANG / SHUTTERSTOCK

As plus-40 degree temperatures continue in Western Australia, WorkSafe has issued a warning about the risk of heat stress at work.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch has reminded employers and workers that they need to take extra care to avoid the risk of heat stress or heat stroke.

Mr McCulloch said that people working outside during especially hot conditions, and those exposed to high indoor temperatures, are particularly at risk.

'Apart from the obvious physical discomfort of these symptoms, they may increase the risk of workplace injuries by taking a worker’s attention away from the task at hand, and this is a major concern,' he said.

WorkSafe advises that heat stroke is a serious medical condition that must be treated immediately.

If heat stroke is suspected, the person should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible. Until medical treatment is available, the person should be cooled down as quickly as possible by methods such as soaking clothing in cold water and increasing air movement by fanning.

Mr McCulloch outlined a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the risks associated with working in extreme heat. These include:

  • simple steps such as drinking at frequent intervals, having rest pauses in a cool place, helping sweat evaporate by increasing air circulation and maintaining a healthy lifestyle;
  • where possible, reorganising work schedules so outdoor tasks are carried out early in the morning and late in the day to avoid peak temperatures;
  • considering the type of clothing worn – loose clothing allows air to circulate, improving the evaporation of sweat.

Further information about working safety in hot conditions is available from the WorkSafe WA website at http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/working-safely-hot-conditions-heat-stress