Recognising heat-related illness

You probably won’t know you are suffering from heat-related illness because your ability to self-assess will be affected.

The problem is once a person is past the dehydration stage, their ability to self-assess will be affected from symptoms such as:

  • confusion
  • fatigue
  • loss of concentration
  • poor judgement
  • dizziness and fainting

Themes that emerged from the coronial inquiries into the 13 work-related fatalities from heat-related illness that occurred between 2001 – 2013 in Australia (noting that 12 of these deaths resulted from working outdoors) included:

  • in cases of workers with colleagues nearby, there was a failure to recognise the signs of heat-related illness
  • workers working alone either failed to recognise or to act on their symptoms or were unable to call for help
  • the need for systems to identify when a worker is suffering heat-related illness and allow them to seek assistance if isolated.

What can be done?

Working in heat and exposure to UV radiation are known hazards for workers.

PCBUs must know when their workers are at risk of both sun and heat exposure and have systems in place to reduce the risks – focusing on the hierarchy of controls – so that all workers:

  • can identify the signs of heat-related illness
  • know how to – and the importance of – observing / monitoring their co-workers
  • know what to do if a co-worker seems affected
  • know what  immediate first aid to give to an affected worker, and when to call for further medical assistance

More information can be found in Recognising and treating heat-related illness at work and Protecting your workers from extreme heat.

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