Humid enough for you? Welcome to what is traditionally the hottest part of the year where even seasoned locals are hot and bothered by the energy sapping tropical humidity. Whilst many of us are lucky enough to work in air-conditioned comfort all day, spare a thought for those working outdoors in the heat all day, every day.
As an employer if you have an outdoor workforce you understand the importance of ensuring the well-being, comfort and safety of your team. Much of what you provide is basic common sense but there are obligations under Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regarding the provision of certain amenities for outdoor workers.
Access to shelter – Outdoor workers should have access to shelter for eating meals and taking breaks and to protect them in adverse weather conditions. Practically speaking it may be a shed, or a portable shade canopy, a vehicle or public facilities.
Protection against UV exposure – Where practical, alternate tasks to follow the shade or schedule activities around the hottest part of the day (10am – 2pm). Sunscreen must also be available for your outdoor workers and it should be reapplied regularly. Sunscreen shouldn’t be stored in the glove box as it may lose its effectiveness and never use sunscreens that have passed their expiry date either.
Protective Clothing – provide workers with long sleeved collared shirt and long pants along with a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Think back to the ‘slip, slop, slap and slide” sun safety campaign; slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat and slide on some sunglasses.
All workers should be provided with access to drinking water (office or outdoor) with special attention paid to remaining hydrated for those exposed to hot and humid conditions. Experts say that on average women should drink 8 glasses of water per day and men 10 glasses (that is between 2 – 2.5 litres per day).
Our bodies are made up of approximately 2/3 water and losing some of it throughout the day is normal via sweat, tears and urine and we can easily top it up through drinking water. However when the amount of water drops too low for normal body functions it can lead to dehydration. So what are the symptoms to be on the lookout for?
A dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, headaches and dizziness, muscle fatigue, dry cool skin, thirst, feeling lethargic and irritable and a lack of urine.
For those undertaking outdoors work in hot and humid conditions drinking water may not be enough to keep you hydrated, you may need to replenish the electrolytes lost through perspiration. Electrolytes are required for healthy normal body function such as blood pressure and maintaining optimal fluid levels. You can naturally replenish these naturally through consuming watermelon, grapefruit or drinking fruit juice, coconut water or smoothies and they will all give you that energy boost to carry on. Sports drinks will also hydrate you and ensure fluids you are consuming are retained. Avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine as these both cause you to urinate more frequently, which is a known cause of dehydration.
Stay cool and hydrated out there and best of all make the most of a knock off swim!
By Heidi Bishop Senior Consultant EastCoast HR Group