The Western Australian WorkSafe authority has issued a warning to employers to ensure their employees and contractors are following approved practices while working in the summer heat.
In Perth, average temperatures can reach 30°C, with hot and dry conditions putting workers at risk of dehydration, sun stroke and other heat-related illnesses. When affected by the warm weather, tradies can often face increased chances of other injuries or accidents occurring due to a lapse of concentration or physical health.
"The increased sweating caused by heat depletes the body's fluids and can lead to tiredness, irritability, inattention and muscular cramps – these are the symptoms of heat stress," WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch explained on December 18.
"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."
The warmer weather typically leads to increased claims on an employer's workers compensation insurance, as medical care is required to recover from both the heat illnesses and any potential injuries caused by related incidents.
Tradie and employer responsibilities
Because of the increased risk of heat-related injuries and illnesses, WorkSafe WA has outlined the duty of care employers must comply to when they require workers to perform tasks outside and exposed to the extreme weather conditions.
Whenever possible, employers are encouraged to rearrange work schedules to ensure outdoor tasks are only completed during times when temperatures are lower – such as early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Additionally, appropriate clothing must be worn at all time. This includes loose-fitted and long-sleeved shirts that can protect against sun burn and sweating.
"Workplace safety laws require an employer to provide a working environment in which workers are not exposed to hazards and this includes, as far as is practicable, protecting employees from extremes in temperature," Mr McCulloch added.
Recognising when a co-worker or employee is suffering from a heat-related illness is an important part of reducing the risk of accidents. You and your staff should be aware of the symptoms and how to respond when a worker exhibits any of these signs. The indicators a heat-stress include:
- Confusion and inability to concentrate
- Feeling dizzy
- Sweating and heat rashes
- Nausea and fatigue
If you notice someone acting strange or lethargic on site, it is important to take action sooner rather than later to avoid further damage. Removing them from the sun, providing water and monitoring their health is crucial. If symptoms remain, a healthcare professional should contacted. By acting quickly, you can reduce the chances of any additional injuries, illness or accidents occurring.