Heat-related illness and how to prevent it - Important facts to know

Heat-related illness and how to prevent it - Important facts to know

Working in heat is a hazard that can result in severe health problems for many NSW workers – whether they work indoors or outdoors.

Every person tolerates heat differently, but we all perspire (or sweat) when we are hot – it’s how our body cools itself.

But working in heat reduces the effectiveness of sweating, which makes it harder for our body to regulate its temperature.

If the body has to work too hard to keep cool, it starts to overheat and a worker begins to suffer from heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness is an umbrella term to describe a range of progressive heat-related conditions that happen when the body’s normal sweating response can’t cool the body down enough to maintain a healthy temperature.

PCBUs should be aware that:

  • extreme heat can be generated by plant and/or processes used within a workplace, as well as by external environmental conditions
  • peak summer and heatwave weather conditions increase the risk of workers being exposed to heat-related illness – particularly when combined with humidity
  • the more extreme the heat and humidity – the higher the risk of serious illness or injury – even death, and
  • in addition to exposure to heat-related illness, outdoor workers have the added risk of exposure to ultra-violet (UV) radiation

Note: This webpage addresses extreme heat that poses a direct risk to a worker’s health and safety.

For information on thermal comfort – that is, whether a worker is comfortable at a particular indoor temperature, see our Maintaining thermal comfort in indoor work environments factsheet.

Additional SWNSW resources on managing exposure to extreme heat are:

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