No sooner does summer arrive then weather stations are issuing heat advisories. For some workers, the heat is a serious occupational hazard. The human body is usually good at maintaining its ideal temperature of 37 C. At any time of year and in various circumstances, the body produces its own heat and prevents overheating by sweating. In extreme temperatures however, when the air is as hot or hotter than the body, the body’s cooling mechanisms can’t keep up. When the body can no longer cool itself properly, a number of heat-related health problems may occur.
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the most serious health illnesses caused by hot environments, and pose a real danger to people who work outside in the summer. In outdoor occupations such as construction, road repair, open-pit mining and agriculture, summer sunshine is the main source of heat. In laundries, restaurant kitchens and canneries, high humidity adds to the heat burden. In all instances, the cause of heat stress is a working environment which can potentially overwhelm the body’s ability to deal with heat.
WHAT IS WEATHER EXPOSURE?
Sun, rain, high winds, snow and ice all create serious hazards to your health and safety. All types of weather can increase the risks to those working in it and care should be taken to protect yourself from harm.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Heat stress– is the result of combined heat load to which a worker may be exposed. As the temperature or heat burden increases, people may feel:
- Increased irritability.
- Loss of concentration and ability to do mental tasks.
- Loss of ability to do skilled tasks or heavy work.
Heat exhaustion– is caused by loss of body water and salt through excessive sweating.
Heat rashes– are tiny red spots on the skin which cause a prickling sensation during heat exposure.
Heat stroke– is the most serious type of heat illness and can result in complete or partial loss of consciousness.
Sunburn– usually causes the skin to become red, sore, warm, tender and can increase your chances of developing serious health problems, such as skin cancer, in later life.
Slips, Trips and Falls– because rain causes slick surfaces, work more slowly and deliberately – particularly when climbing ladders.
Collisions due to poor visibility- Wear high-visibility clothing, especially in areas with vehicle traffic and heavy machinery
Electrocution– using electric powered tools in the rain puts you at much greater risk of electrocution
Wind-blown debris– wind can blow debris and dust that can cause injury to the body and eyes
Falls from height- High winds can topple machinery and lift exposed individuals
Collapse– High winds can cause the collapse of structures and material stacks