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Construction workers who work outdoors in hot conditions are at risk of heat stress. Queensland's summer months (December, January and February) pose the greatest risk, so it’s particularly important to manage exposure to hot conditions during that time.
Heat stress can cause:
Although most construction workers are exposed to working in heat, various factors make individual workers more susceptible to heat stress, including:
- Poor diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and factors like vomiting and diarrhoea that lead to dehydration
- Medical conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes and hypertension
- Medication that affects the regulation of body temperature
- Age, fitness and weight.
Planning and risk assessment
Not all weather conditions can be planned for at the commencement of a project. Management of hot conditions often needs to be done on a day-by-day basis.
Depending on the length of the project, you'll have some awareness of whether work will be performed during the summer months. This will enable you to plan ahead to reschedule high-risk work, engage additional staff and allow for more rest breaks.
You should regularly track weather conditions and temperatures so you can be prepared.
Meet with your staff and discuss ways to alleviate or mitigate the impact of hot conditions.
If workers are experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as dizziness, nausea or fainting, it’s important that they to stop, rest and drink more fluids. You should also consider how the work could be rescheduled or managed more effectively.
Some control measures include:
- Rotating jobs in and out of the sun during peak exposure times (10am – 2pm)
- Avoiding work in ceiling spaces during the middle of the day
- Encouraging workers to drink 150–200mm of cool fluids every 15–20 minutes, rather than consuming a one-litre drink sporadically
- Drinking water or sports drinks instead of tea, coffee or milk
- Resting dehydrated workers until they are fully rehydrated
- Ensuring air-conditioners in amenities sheds are working properly
- Ensuring water coolers are working properly
- Creating shaded areas with tarps or finding a tree for rest breaks
- Wearing a hat or hard hat brim with neck flap
- Wearing cooling vests and backpack-style, hands-free water dispensers during extended periods of outdoor work.