Working in hot and/or humid environments is not only uncomfortable, it can also result in heat-related illness, which can be fatal. Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, but it’s important to identify the warning signs and to react swiftly and appropriately when they arise.
For this reason, managing heat was chosen as the topic for CTC’s latest Safety Seminar held on Wednesday, 30th August in Hot Leasing.
First up was Zach du Preez, A/Principal Advisor – Occupational Hygiene – Workplace Health & Safety Queensland who explained how to identify and assess the risk of heat stress. It is important to consider:-
- What are the workplace conditions? Consider humidity, surface temperatures, exposure period, reflective surfaces, hot plant etc.
- What are the job requirements? How complex, how heavy is the work, how regular are the breaks, are there shady areas, what are the PPE requirements?
- What are the individual worker attributes? Are they used to this type of work? Do they have a pre-existing medical condition? Would they know the signs of heat stress?
Workplace Health & Safety Queensland have an on-line tool to assist in identifying and assessing the risk of heat stress Heat Stress Basic Calculator Test. Control measures must be implemented when the risk of a heat related illness is assessed as high. For more information from Workplace Health & Safety Queensland about managing heat exposure, visit their website.
Zach finished with a scenario about a worker who suffered the affects of heat stress. He mentioned how the symptoms of heat stress can easily be confused with those of a heart attack. In the last 5 years, there have been over 200 reported incidents of heat stress, 22 of which resulted in serious injury or death.
The second presenter was Di A-Izzeddin, Operations Manager & Director of 4cRisk Pty Ltd. 4cRisk has developed a program to help identify and manage heat related risks. Like the previous speaker, Di stressed the importance of considering environmental and physiological aspects in addition to air temperature when managing the risk of heat stress.
Engineering controls can include fans, thermal blanketing etc. Physiological controls could include educating workers to drink sufficient fluids to stay adequately hydrated. There are tools available to measure hydration levels. Making electrolyte replacements available is a good control measure. Our bodies are designed to regulate heat, but other factors can make it difficult to maintain a safe temperature (as described above).
To finish, Di stressed the importance of workplaces implementing a robust program that takes into consideration all factors that contribute to heat related illness.
The final presentation was a practical demonstration from Charmaine Streeter and Tracy McLean from Queensland Health’s Clinical Skills Development Service. Using “volunteers” from the audience, they demonstrated how to identify the signs and symptoms and apply first aid for the 3 levels of heat-related illness.
- Heat cramps
- Signs/symptoms – painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen, heavy sweating
- Treatment – Move to cooler place, apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm; give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water.
- Heat exhaustion
- Signs/symptoms – faint or dizzy, excessive sweating, cool pale clammy skin, nausea or vomiting, rapid, weak pulse, muscle cramps
- Treatment – Get to cooler air conditioned place, lie down, loosen clothing, cool by fanning, drink water if fully conscious, take a cool shower or use cold compresses.
- Heat stroke
- Signs/symptoms – throbbing headache, no sweating, body temperature above 40 degrees C, red hot dry skin, nausea or vomiting, rapid strong pulse, may lose consciousness.
- Treatment – Emergency – call 000. Take immediate action to cool the person until help arrives.
For more information about CTC’s Safety Series Seminars contact us. Our next seminar is scheduled for Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 and will focus on Elevated Work Platform safety.