With a heatwave predicted this weekend and temperatures above 40 degrees in many parts of the State on Friday, SafeWork NSW is urging workers and businesses to make their safety the number-one priority.

Following the activation of the NSW Government’s Heat Wave Sub-Plan, Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy, said businesses need to have plans in place that prevent workers suffering heat stress or heat illness.

“Heatwave-like conditions are predicted across NSW today and throughout the weekend,” Mr Dunphy said.

“Working in the heat can reduce a worker’s concentration, ability to recognise risks and communicate effectively, which can potentially result in serious injury or even death.

“While outdoor workers like tradies and those working in roof spaces or other confined areas are most at risk, businesses with indoor workers like chefs also need to ensure there is adequate ventilation so that hot air can be removed from the work space.

“By monitoring temperature, humidity, hydration and work activity, businesses can minimise the risks of heat stress and heat-related illness.

“But importantly, businesses and workers must adopt a flexible and common sense approach that puts safety first.”

Mr Dunphy said that reinforcing the need to be safe this weekend was the fact that over the four years to July 2015, there were 662 workers compensation claims for heat stroke, fatigue and skin cancer, at a cost of more than $6.65 million.

“It’s vital that managers, supervisors and co-workers keep an eye out for each other when working in these conditions,” he said.

“Monitor your colleagues for signs of heat related illness such as dizziness, general weakness, collapse and in extreme cases, heat stroke.

“Set realistic workloads and work schedules, ensure fair distribution of work, provide shaded rest areas and regular breaks.

“Where possible, try to re-schedule work to cooler times of the day such as early morning or late afternoon.

“By taking these steps, we can ensure everyone comes home safely at the end of the weekend,” Mr Dunphy said.

Working in the heat safety tips:

  • Provide access to plain drinking water, at least 200mL every 15-20 minutes;
  • Don’t drink energy or caffeinated drinks which can have a diuretic effect;
  • Ensure workers wear sun protection in all outdoor conditions, because workers can be exposed to UV radiation in the shade as well as the sun;
  • Rotate tasks to lessen exposure to the sun, as well as mental and physical fatigue;
  • Provide clothing with a UPF 50+ rating such as loose shirts with long sleeves, collars and long pants;
  • Provide broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30+, broad brimmed hats and sunglasses which meet Australian Standards for UV protection.

SafeWork NSW’s working in extreme heat You Tube video provides tips for businesses and workers on how to work safely in the heat and can be viewed on any PC, smart phone or mobile device.

Other free guidance material on fatigue management and working safely in the sun is available from safework.nsw.gov.au or by calling 13 10 50. visit cancercouncil.com.au for sun safety tips.

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