Some cool advice for employers

20-11-2013
Employers have legal responsibilities to implement risk control measures to safeguard employees against harm arising from heat or cold while at work.
 
An employer must ensure that adequate ventilation and air movement is provided in indoor environments that may become hot.
 
Having assessed the workplace conditions and risks, action must now be taken to ensure that heat and cold related risks are controlled. Listed below are steps to consider when looking at the situation in your workplace.
 
Every workplace is different, and these risk controls may or may not be the right ones for you.
 
Steps to consider for indoor hot conditions:
• Provide and encourage the use of mechanical aids (such as tractors, forklifts, electric saws, mechanical hoists).
• Isolate workers from heat sources.
• Remove heat by exhausts or other sources to the outside of the building.
• Ventilate the work area to provide a flow of cool (or cooled) air. This is particularly important where hot work processes generate radiant heat or high humidity.
• Use fans to circulate airflow (eg. overhead ceiling fans).
• Reduce heat from plant and processes as far as possible by insulating plant, pipes, walls or roofs to minimise radiant heat.
• Monitor temperature, humidity and workers’ physical response to environmental conditions.
• Organise the work so those tasks requiring greater physical exertion or that require the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) are undertaken in cooler periods within the working shift. Also, provide rest breaks.
• Rotate work in hot conditions to limit the exposure of individual employees.
• Inform and train employees to recognise symptoms of heat-related illness.
• Develop first aid and emergency procedures – and make sure they are understood.
• Provide ready access for employees to fluids and encourage workers to make up for body fluid lost through sweating. A useful “rule of thumb” is that workers should drink at least half a litre of water each hour if hot environments result in excessive sweating.
• Provide PPE for workers exposed to radiant heat and flames such as face shields, appropriate clothing, gloves etc.
 
Steps to consider for outdoor hot conditions
• Provide and encourage the use of mechanical aids (such as tractors, forklifts, electric saws, mechanical lifters).
• Provide shade where possible, at least for rest periods.
• Monitor temperature, humidity and workers’ physical response to environmental conditions.
• Inform and train employees to recognise symptoms of heat-related illness.
• Allow workers to acclimatise to hot conditions over a period of time.
• Provide frequent rest breaks and/or rotate duties to allow people to cool down.
• Consider work-rest regimes.
• Schedule heavy work and tasks that require the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), for cooler times of day (or year).
• Provide fluids and encourage workers to make up for body fluid lost through sweating.
• A useful “rule of thumb” is that workers should drink at least half a litre of water each hour if hot environments result in excessive sweating.
• Develop first aid and emergency procedures – and make sure they are understood.

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