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Fatigue and heat stress are major causes of injury during the summer months, so as the weather heats up employers and supervisors of outdoor workers need to be aware of the importance of sun safety.

Did you know that in the three years to July 2014, there were 228 workers’ compensation claims in NSW for workplace fatigue and heat stroke?

This figure from SafeWork NSW highlights the risk of not working safely in the heat. Getting the job done is important, but so too is the safety and health of your workers.

The risk of workers experiencing heat stress and illness in hot and sweltering conditions is very real and needs to be taken seriously. It can reduce a worker’s performance and productivity, and increase the chance of injury by reducing their ability to concentrate, recognise risks and communicate effectively. And in the worst cases, it can also result in organ failure and death.

Here are some key things that you need to consider:

  • Wear the correct gear. Full-length pants and tops are good for protection. But remember, different types of fabric provide different protection; the closeness of the weave, colour and condition of the fabric can affect the ability of the material to absorb UV rays. So always ensure that clothing has a UPF 50+ rating. Outdoor workers should wear a hat with at least a 7.5cm brim to shade the face, ears and neck. If wearing a hard hat or helmet, use a brim attachment or legionnaire cover to provide sufficient protection. Well-fitted sunglasses should also be worn.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s easy to get carried away with a job and forget to hydrate. This can all too easily result in problems. So workers should always carry a water bottle with them of plain drinking water and drink at least 200mL every 15-20 minutes. It’s important to avoid energy or caffeinated drinks, as these can have a diuretic affect.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen. Outdoor workers should use a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen that is water resistant and meets Australian standards for UV protection. It should be applied generously and regularly. Most suncreens advise reapplication every couple of hours, but outdoor workers may need to reapply more frequently due to sweating. Even when working in the shade, sunscreen is necessary because workers can be exposed to UV radiation in the shade as well as in the sun.
  • Know when to stop. It’s important to encourage your workers to take regular breaks to rest and recharge. Importantly, if a worker starts to feel uneasy, make sure they step away from the job and find a cool area to recuperate and rehydrate. Also set realistic work goals and schedules, and ensure fair distribution of work amongst workers.
  • Seek out the shade. Outdoor workers should find shaded areas to take breaks. If a shaded area is not readily accessible, a portable shade with certified UV protective shade cloth should be arranged on site.

Identifying the risks that your employees are exposed to and keeping them safe in their work environment is essential. It’s also important to educate your workers about how to work safely in the sun and in hot conditions.

By keeping a close eye on your workers and putting measures in place to minimise the effects of hot weather, you can minimise your business risk, protect your workers and beat the heat this summer!

Emjay Insurance Brokers provides a comprehensive range of workers’ compensation and risk management solutions. They will provide you with the advice you need to ensure that your employees are equipped to work safely in this summer’s hot conditions. Contact us today to discuss your needs on (02) 9796 0400.

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