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.
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