Heat stress reminder from SafeWork SA

Friday, 05 January, 2007

South Australians are reminded by SafeWork SA of the dangers of heat stress and the importance of preventing it.

Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to adequately cool itself for reasons such as: exposure to high temperatures and humidity; reduced air movement; radiant temperature of surroundings; and level of physical activity undertaken.

Some symptoms of heat stress include headaches; dizziness or fainting; fatigue; increased sweating; and mood changes such as irritability or confusion.

"If people continue to work on through symptoms of heat stress, it can lead to serious illness such as heat stroke and in extreme cases, death," says SafeWork SA executive director, Michele Patterson.

Patterson says that foundries and furnaces are not the only workplace settings which are hot, industrial sheds can sometimes exceed 50°C.

"Working in a hot environment can affect workers' concentration and that's when harmful incidents are more likely to happen.

"Keeping hydrated is critical, and the law requires access to fresh drinking water at all workplaces.

"Rotating workers who have to work in direct sunlight can help reduce the time of sun exposure for each person," Patterson says, "and UV protection, such as sun block and wide-brimmed hats, should also be included."

If heat stroke is suspected, medical assistance should be sought immediately depending on the seriousness of the symptoms. First aid consists of cooling the body as quickly as possible, for example, soaking the person's clothing in cold water and increasing air movement by fanning them.

"No one should assume that their feeling of discomfort whilst working in very hot weather is a trivial matter," said Patterson.

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