How can heat stress be prevented in indoor work environments?
Using just one control is unlikely to be effective to manage the risks associated with working in hot environments, so a number of controls might need to be used together to get the best results.
Measures to prevent or reduce the risk of heat stress include:
- designing buildings to incorporate good air flow where hot process are located – eg via windows, shutters or roof design (to encourage ‘chimney effects’ to help dissipate the heat from the structure)
- installing reflective or light-coloured external wall cladding and roofing
- locating workers in air conditioned control rooms away from the hot work
- increasing air movement using fans
- installing shields or barriers to reduce radiant heat from sources such as furnaces
- removing heated air or steam from hot processes using local exhaust ventilation
- installing air conditioners to reduce air temperature
- insulating/enclosing hot processes or plant
- using chiller units, in extreme cases, to relieve air temperature and humidity – eg when working in enclosed roof spaces
- placing reflective shields or coatings on radiant heat spots
- insulating hot surfaces
- providing mechanical equipment to reduce the need for strenuous physical work
- installing blinds or curtains on windows to reduce direct sunlight
- providing easy access to cool drinking water
- Drinking enough water to maintain adequate fluid replacement. Regular meals and snacks will replace salt and electrolytes lost through sweating
- ensuring workers are used to working in the heat and not taking medication that will weaken their ability to cope with heat stress
- providing regular breaks away from hot processes in a clean, cool, well-ventilated area – air conditioned where possible
- implementing a ‘buddy system’ where each worker looks after the other and ensures that their buddies are drinking water, taking breaks and not showing signs of heat stress
- ensuring work is paced to meet the conditions
- increasing worker rotation
- sharing unavoidable heavier jobs between more workers.
Training should be provided and include:
- working safely in the heat
- the types of work that increase the risk of heat stress
- how to identify if you, your buddy or your workmates have symptoms of heat stress, and
- how to report it immediately.
PPE should be provided and should be:
- comfortable to wear
- made of suitable materia
- ldesigned to provide protection while keeping you cool in hot conditions
- task-specific, for example:
- indoor workers exposed to humid heat (– eg in kitchens, laundries) should wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing for air movement
- indoor workers exposed to radiant heat should be supplied with reflective aprons and face shields
- foundry workers can be provided with a jacket of leather or suitably flame resistant material. High-visibility colour options can also assist with visibility in these workplaces.