Indoor workers

Measures to prevent or reduce the risk of heat-related illness for indoor workers include:

Eliminating the hazard

  • design buildings that incorporate good air flow for hot processes, eg via windows, shutters or roof design (to encourage ‘chimney effects’ to help dissipate the heat from the structure)
  • use of robotic automation may help avoid the need to place workers in dangerous situations

Isolating the hazard

  • isolate workers in air conditioned control rooms away from the hot work
  • locate hot processes away from people
  • technology can be used in many industry sectors, eg: for loading and unloading and order-picking in warehouses, which can be a hot environment.

Engineering controls

  • install remote sensors or other technology to monitor and identify problems in the infrastructure systems of companies (eg: gas, electricity and water suppliers) to reduce the need for workers to be exposed to environmental extremes in confined spaces
  • insulate/enclose hot surfaces, processes or equipment
  • install shields or barriers to reduce radiant heat from sources such as furnaces
  • increase air movement and remove heated air or steam from hot processes using local mechanical extraction ventilation, air conditioning, evaporative coolers or fans
  • use chiller units, in extreme cases, to relieve air temperature and humidity – eg when working in enclosed roof spaces
  • install reflective or light-coloured external wall cladding and roofing
  • place reflective shields or coatings on radiant heat spots
  • provide mechanical equipment to reduce the need for strenuous physical work
  • install blinds, curtains or window tinting treatment to reduce direct sunlight

Administrative controls

  • provide easy access to lots of cool drinking water. Locate it near each work area to encourage frequent drinking
  • provide regular and frequent breaks away from hot processes in a cool, well-ventilated area – air conditioned where possible
  • implement an effective ‘buddy system’ where workers check each other frequently to ensure they are:
    • drinking enough water – a small cup (200ml) of water every 15 – 20 minutes
    • eating regular meals and snacks (to help replace salt and electrolytes lost through sweating)
    • taking appropriate breaks, and
    • are not showing signs of heat-related illness
  • provide access to crushed ice (to ingest and for use as ice towel) where possible
  • ensure the work is paced to meet the conditions. Where possible, allow workers to self-pace (set their own work rate) so they are comfortable
  • ensure workers are used to working in the heat and not taking medication that will affect their ability to cope with heat. Ease new workers – or those returning after more a week’s leave – into a hot workplace gradually, allocating extra breaks and slowly increasing their workload
  • increase worker rotation
  • reduce the length of shifts
  • share tasks between rotating staff so the same workers are not always exposed to heat
  • share unavoidable heavier jobs between more workers
  • make provision for first aid treatment and emergency medical assistance.
  • provide suitable supervision of all workers.

Training

Training must be provided and include how to:

  • work safely in the heat
  • identify hazards associated with working in heat, including personal factors (medication, illness, fitness /obesity, pregnancy)
  • recognise symptoms of heat heat-related illness
  • know the type of treatment required
  • understand how to avoid heat illness
  • recognise the potential dangers associated with the use of alcohol, drugs and some medications when working in hot environments
  • wear their appropriate protective clothing correctly (including knowing any restrictions on personal clothing that can be worn underneath), and
  • know how to report any issues immediately

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE should be provided and be:

  • comfortable to wear
  • made of suitable material / fabric that is designed to provide protection while keeping you cool in a hot work environment
  • task-specific, eg:
    • workers exposed to humid heat (eg: in kitchens, laundries) should wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing to assist air movement
    • workers exposed to radiant heat should be supplied with reflective aprons and face shields
    • foundry workers should be provided with a jacket of leather or other suitably flame resistant material. High-visibility colour options can also assist with visibility in these workplaces
    • some specialised PPE is available which actively cools the worker (eg: clothing with gel inserts that absorb heat from the worker’s skin) and increase the duration for which the worker can operate in hot environments.
  • ensure a workplace policy is in place stating what personal clothing workers can wear underneath any overalls or other protective clothing, as it could contribute to them being at risk of heat-related illness).
Back to top