How to manage working safely through the heatwave

With the spate of high temperatures we have been having, I thought it worthwhile to reflect on safety when working in this type of weather.

It is essential - in fact it is the law - that people operating a business ensure their workers' safety in this kind of heat is a priority, particularly those working outdoors. It is equally important that you apply some of this thinking towards your own activities about the house and garden.

Working in high temperatures can lead to heat-related illness and can contribute to injuries if not carefully managed. This can range from minor irritations and injuries such as heat rashes and sunburn to more serious problems like dehydration and heat stroke. Heat cramps, fainting and reduced concentration can also lead to consequential physical injuries for workers.

Fortunately a lot of thought has gone into safety on work sites, and many of these principles can be applied in a private setting. A good safety plan on a building site will identify the risks of the work being undertaken, assess the level of risk, and identify measures that can control or mitigate it. Ask yourself what are the things that could go wrong, what's the likelihood of each of these things happening, and how do I keep myself safe. This last point may even include asking yourself whether you could do the task on another day.

Those of us who enjoy weekend DIY will know jobs always take longer than you think, so factor this into your planning when the heat is extreme. It doesn't take long for heat-related stress to set in.

So while developing a safety plan might seem a little over the top for a domestic setting, it is the basis for a good common-sense approach to making sure what you set out to achieve is completed safely.

Some basic ideas to manage working in the heat may include installing shade structures if possible, taking regular breaks and wearing protective clothing such as a wide-brim hat, long-sleeved and collared shirts as well as long pants. Sunglasses and sunscreen are also a must.

Ensure you pace yourself and have regular breaks, particularly if you are not accustomed to working in the heat. Of course, drink plenty of water while you are working and if you can, start hydrating well before you start the task.

There is plenty of safety information available online, and I would recommend a look at the short video recently released by WorkSafe ACT on working in the heat, which can be found through Access Canberra or your preferred search engine.

Greg Weller is the Housing Industry Association's ACT and southern NSW executive director.

This story How to manage working safely through the heatwave first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.