Summer may be over but the heat is still on and whilst many people can stay cool by staying indoors, many workers have no choice but to bear the heat whilst working outside.
Strenuous work outdoors can lead to excessive heat strain and heat-related illnesses. There is no workplace exposure standard or limit for heat stress in Queensland and this is why it is important that workers who are exposed to hot work environments are mindful of watching out for their own health and their co-workers in these conditions.
Common heat-related illnesses include:
- Heat rash
- Heat cramps
- Dizziness and fainting
- Heat exhaustion
- Heatstroke(a medical emergency and requires urgent attention).
To avoid becoming ill whilst working outside or in other hot environments, workers should exercise common sense and follow tips such as these when working in the heat:
- Stay hydrated
Whilst this seems to be a no-brainer, you would be surprised as to how many people do not stay properly hydrated when out and about. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink, if you are thirsty it means you are already dehydrated. Try to limit drinking caffeine, alcohol and freezing cold water as these do not assist with maintaining good hydration levels. Carry around a water bottle or wear a hydration pack. Having water readily available will help keep you on top of your hydration levels throughout the day.
- Check the colour of your urine
Yes that is right, the colour of your urine is the best and easiest way to check your hydration levels. The clearer your urine, the more hydrated you are.
- Slip slop slap
Wearing sunscreen when working in the sun is a must to help prevent UV skin exposure and damage of the skin. Try to use a sunscreen, which is longer lasting, water resistant and offers the highest possible level of UV protection.
- Wear appropriate and breathable clothing
If possible, wear clothing that covers most of the body and promotes good airflow, such as cotton or other organic materials. Wearing a wide brim sun hat will also assist with keeping you cool by keeping the sun and heat off your face and body.
- Work smarter
If possible, try scheduling work tasks that are more strenuous and demanding for the cooler hours of the day and easier tasks for the hotter hours of the day. Ensuring that you also have regular breaks to rest, eat properly and to drink water will hopefully ensure that you are doing all you can to minimize the risk of a heat related illness.
These are just some tips for workers to minimize their chances of developing heat strain or heat related illnesses whilst working in hot conditions. Learning about the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency is also a good idea for people who are about to start a job that will require exposure to hot environments.