Looking out for everyone in the heat of summer

Summer is here, are you prepared for the heat? 

Summer is here – longer days, sunshine, and the outdoors sound like the perfect conditions to get all that work done. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, hazards and risks are forever present and summer brings with it its own risks. 

Have you thought about what you are doing to protect your team from the effects of the summer sun and heat?

 “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide” to minimise the obvious risks of sunburn and skin cancer, but we also need to be aware of the risk of heat exhaustion, dehydration and fatigue. 

Check out this resource from the Cancer Council that gives some handy tips for working outdoors. 

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when our bodies overheat from the loss of water and salt due to sweating. If left untreated it can lead to heat stroke. 

Heat stroke

Heat stroke occurs when the body is no longer able to keep itself cool causing a high body temperature of 39.4 degrees or more.

Heat rash and heat cramps are earlier stages of the onset of heat exhaustion. Knowing the signs and what to do will help prevent the onset of heat exhaustion or worse, heat stroke.

Managing the risks

  • Planning is key – With the sun at its peak between 10am-4pm, make sure you take regular breaks within this time and where possible arrange work that can be done in covered or shaded areas to be completed during this time period. 
  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water, even when you’re not thirsty, to replace the fluids lost through perspiration.
  • Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide:  Do this at all times when working out under the sun, even on overcast days as the sun’s rays can still affect you
    • Slip on sun protective clothing. Choose clothing that covers as much skin as possible (e.g. shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars) and is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.
    • Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Apply sunscreen to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours.
    • Slap on a hat. A broad-brimmed or bucket-style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears. Try not to wear caps and visors as they do not provide enough protection.
    • Seek shade. Whatever form of shade you use, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other forms of protection to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.
    • Slide on some sunglasses.  Sunglasses should be worn outside during daylight hours. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067.
  • Take it easy – Don’t overdo things. Keep strenuous tasks to a minimum and regularly rotate work tasks.
  • Listen to your body – Just because the weather is nice and you can work longer to get those jobs done doesn’t mean that you should. Fatigue affects your mental and physical capabilities making it harder for you to concentrate. When we lack concentration is when incidents can occur.
  • Discussing the effects of the Sun (UV and Heat) at your Toolbox meetings is a great way to remind everyone of this often overlooked environmental hazard. You can easily record your toolbox meetings using the HazardCo App.


First Aid recommendations

If someone is showing signs or symptoms of a heat-related illness, Safe Work Australia has a great resource that gives some handy tips on first aid treatment options. Click here to learn more. 

Note: Workers who have underlying medical conditions or health issues can make them more susceptible to heat related illness.

Need Help?

As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss your work hazards, give our Health and Safety Advisory team a call on 1800 954 702. 


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