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With the mercury set reach over 42 degrees in NSW on Thursday both indoor and outdoor workers are at risk of heat-related illness.

Working in heat is a hazard that can result in severe health problems for many NSW workers – whether they work indoors or outdoors.

Employers and businesses have the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers – regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, casual, shift workers, labour-hire workers, contractors – or ‘others’ (eg volunteers, visitors, etc) in the workplace, so far as is  reasonably practical.

What is heat-related illness?

‘Heat-related illness’ is a term that describes a range of progressive heat-related conditions.

The human body needs to maintain a body temperature of approximately 37C.

If the body has to work too hard to keep cool, it starts to overheat and a worker begins to suffer from heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness is a newer term that replaces the term ‘heat stress’.

It is used to describe a range of progressive heat related conditions, including:

  • dehydration
  • heatstroke
  • fainting
  • heat rash
  • heat cramps
  • heat exhaustion

When working in heat, dehydration is a major risk, so workers must stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water is vital

Everyone needs to drink more water when working in a hot environment – whether it’s indoors or outdoors and regardless of how active we are. Fresh water is the recommended fluid to drink in hot environments because it’s best for hydrating the body.

Employers and Business Owners must provide clean drinking water for workers that is free of charge, located near each work area and available to drink at all times (not just during breaks).  It’s important to know that drinking satisfies your thirst first, before it will start to replace any fluid loss. So, don’t wait until you’re thirsty – it’s much better to have frequent, smaller drinks of cooled water rather than infrequent large drinks. On hot days, you should drink at least a small cup (200ml) of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes.

It’s important not to replace water with energy drinks, soft drinks, alcohol or coffee – which can dehydrate you further.

How to manage extreme heat in your workplace click here

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