We all know just how much fatigue and heat stress can affect your health, perhaps not so much an issue for a white collar worker in an air conditioned office, however, imagine you are working on a construction site in the middle of summer performing labour intensive work. A recipe for heat stress!

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that this coming summer (2013/2014) has a 60% – 70% chance of exceeding median maximum temperatures, particularly over northwest Western Australia, the southeast coast and Tasmania. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/temps_ahead.shtml

Heat stress can have real and serious consequences on any work site, although the construction industry is especially susceptible due to the physical nature of many of the roles and professions within the industry, coupled with the fact that plenty of construction work takes place over the summer months.

Common heat stress illness symptoms that you’ll need to be on the lookout for this summer includes dizziness, nausea, general weakness and collapse. If a worker shows any of these symptoms, cease work, hydrate the individual in question and rest them in a shady area while calling for medical assistance.

It is important that both employers and employees work together to protect themselves from heat stress.

Some simple ways to help mitigate the risk of fatigue or heat stress.

  • Provide and maintain equipment and shelter to protect workers from the sun
  • Provide sun safety information, instruction, training and supervision
  • Rotate tasks to lessen exposure to the sun as well as mental and physical fatigue, and schedule to work at cooler time of the day
  • Use rest periods in addition to scheduled meal breaks
  • Provide water and encourage workers to stay hydrated
  • Provide personal protective equipment such as clothing with UPF 50+ rating, loose shirts with long   sleeves, collars and long pants, broad band spectrum (SPF 30+) and sunglasses which meet Australian Standards for UV protection.
  • Use plant, machinery and equipment to eliminate or reduce the excessive physical demands of the job.

Working safely in the construction industry begins with white card training, that’s why heat stress illnesses and fatigue is covered in enough detail to educate a newcomer to the industry on just how serious this hazard is and the ways in which it can be controlled.