AMSJ » Longreach enters 11th consecutive day of 40 plus degree heat
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Longreach enters 11th consecutive day of 40 plus degree heat

As Longreach enters it’s 11th consecutive day of 40 plus degree heat, the Electrical Trades Union has issued a health warning to outdoor workers to be aware of the serious risk of heat stress.

The notice reminds workers of the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and highlights the health and safety requirements for managing work in high temperatures.

These requirements include a mandatory stop to work when temperatures exceed 38 degrees, with a risk assessment then undertaken to determine if it is safe to continue work. Such work should be limited to fault repairs, emergency situations, or the finalisation of current work, with no new work commencing.

For temperatures between 28 degrees and 38 degrees, a minimum 15 minute break per hour worked and regular intakes of cool water are required to manage heat risks.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said extreme temperatures, particularly over a sustained number of days, risk overloading the natural cooling mechanisms of the human body.

“Extreme heat can cause a range of health problems, from the uncomfortable to the potentially deadly,” Mr Butler said.

“With sustained high temperatures over several days, exceeding 40 degrees in some areas, it is essential that people working outdoors are aware of appropriate measures to manage the heat.

“Our union has produced a detailed policy for working in heat, while individual employers should have a heat management policy in place and WorkCover NSW also has a code of practice for managing hot work environments.”

The union said possible health effects faced by outdoor workers include heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and in the most extreme cases heat stroke.

“Heat exhaustion is related to a rapid loss of body fluids, with those workers unable to have enough to drink or those suffering from illnesses such as diarrhoea at particular risk,” Mr Butler said.

“It is essential to keep an eye out for workmates, with warning signs including pale and clammy skin, thirst, fatigue, tiredness, nausea and vomiting.

“Heat stroke, which can be potentially fatal, is more likely when high temperatures are combined with high humidity, with symptoms including flushing, hot dry skin, headache, drowsiness, convulsions, delirium and even collapse.

“Workers and their employers should take appropriate action to manage the risk, with regular breaks, the consumption of cool water, and an immediate halt to work when the mercury is above 38.

“When assessing the risk it is also essential to be aware that thermal radiation from the sun, and high humidity, both exacerbate the risk posed by hot temperatures.

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AMSJ April 2022