How can outdoor workers be protected from heat stress and UV radiation exposure?

A range of controls should be considered when working outdoors in the heat because no one control will be completely effective.

Measures to prevent or reduce the risk of heat stress include:

  • where possible, relocating outdoor work so it is done out of sun in a covered, well ventilated building/structure that is not exposed to radiant heat sources – eg large exposed outdoor cemented areas; metal or light-coloured walls
  • where possible, starting work on the shady side of the building, and following the shade around the building as the day progresses
  • providing mechanical equipment to reduce the need for strenuous physical work
  • placing reflective shields and barriers to reduce radiant heat spots – eg in unshaded outdoor cement areas; generators and other large powered equipment that may be being used during outdoor work
  • providing screens, umbrellas, canopies or awnings over sections of the site to create shade where work is being carried out
  • providing easy access to cool drinking water
  • planning work routines so outdoor work tasks are done:
    • early in the morning or later in the afternoon when the levels of ultra-violet radiation (UVR) from the sun are lower
    • indoors or in shaded areas during the middle of the day when the levels of UVR from the sun are strongest
    • based on the ultra-violet (UV) alert issued by the Bureau of Meteorology available via their SunSmart App for iPhone and Android at bom.gov. au
  • sharing outdoor tasks and rotating staff so the same person is not always out in the sun
  • ensuring workers are used to working in hot conditions and not taking medication that will weaken their ability to cope with heat stress
  • providing regular breaks away from the sun in a clean, cool, well-ventilated (air conditioned where possible) area – eg shed or vehicle
  • 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
  • keeping people away from hot processes
  • allowing workers to gradually get used to working in a hot environment.
  • 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 material
  • task-specific
  • esigned to provide sun protection while keeping you cool in hot condition
  • sultraviolet protection factor (UPF) 50+ rated long-sleeved collared shirts and long pants
  • a suitable hat
  • SPF 30+ sunscreen, and
  • appropriate sunglasses.

Outdoor work should be planned ahead to ensure all necessary measures for preventing heat stress can be implemented when hot weather is predicted.

If you work outdoors and your workplace does not offer any sun protection measures, raise the issue with your health and safety representative or manager.

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