When Summer arrives, it brings with it a unique set of risks to manage, especially for those working at heights and outdoors in Australia. With all the encouragement to get your aircon units serviced before the onset of heat, this creates a greater demand for workers accessing the roofs. We all know this summer is going to be different to our usual summers so here are a few pointers you should know before the real heat hits and ways to be ready for this Summer.
You might not be able to control the heat, but there’s things you can do to control the risks associated with working in the heat. In this News Article, we look at 10 ways to beat the heat this summer.
- Switch up your working hours Australian Summer months brings longer days and more direct sunlight. Where possible change your working hours to before and after the sun’s peak hours.
- Ease of Access Spending long periods of time on the roof is not a safe practice in the first place let alone in the direct sunlight. Ensure there is adequate access systems such as walkways and working platforms around the equipment your servicing. Having permanent and controlled access for contractors and maintenance technicians will decrease the time spend on the roof and reduce heat fatigue. Permanent systems such as guardrails and walkways also eliminate the need for extra PPE such as harnesses allowing workers to stay cooler while servicing / installing equipment.
- Too hot to handle? In Australia you can almost fry your lunch on surfaces that are in the direct sunlight, so be careful what surfaces you touch and where you put your equipment down. Equipment that has been sitting in the direct sunlight will become extremely hot and most likely won’t perform to its full capacity so stay alert & wear gloves when your dealing with metal materials.
- Wear the appropriate gear Wear clothing with a UPF 50+ rating such as loose shirts with long sleeves, collars, long pants & wide brim hats. It is always a good idea to carry sunscreen in your work vehicles to ensure maximum protection.
- Keep hydrated This may seem an obvious point but according to the water logics Australia 80% of Australians are already dehydrated before they get to work. It is easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat. Working in a hot environment can cause you to become fatigued and physically weak, as well as slow your reaction times and affect your judgement. Any of these increase your risk of injury, and you may begin to make errors, drop tools or stumble.
- Rotate tasks between workers To reduce exposure to UV radiation and extreme heat, rotate between technicians. Giving each one a break from the direct sunlight and reducing heat fatigue.
- Know the symptoms of heat related Illnesses It is extremely important for workers to remain alert to the signs of heat related illness, in both themselves and their fellow workers. The early symptoms of heat-related stress include:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Cramps in the arms, legs & stomach
If you feel any of these symptoms coming on cease work immediately, especially if your working at heights. Use the Heat stress calculator to determine if you are at a greater risk of suffering from the heat induced illness.
View the heat stress fact sheet provided by the ACT Government below.
- Melted roof materials Roofing structures can become brittle and weak after long term exposure to high temperatures and roof materials can melt causing a trip or fall hazard for any contractors working on the roof. Before accessing the roof conduct a site inspection and review roof conditions before allowing any workers on the roof, manage the risk before its to late!
- Temperature awareness Be prepared for the weather. Check the weather forecasts for the day and if necessary, adjust your work plan to suit, even if it means sending workers home if conditions become unsuitable and potentially threatening.
- Staying cool while wearing a mask ? If you live in a state where wearing masks is mandatory, it is extremely important to find a mask that is appropriate for the job you’re carrying out. Choose a mask made from a breathable fabric & avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester, as well as mask filters, which can make your mask hotter and harder to breathe through. Choose a mask lighter in colour so it reflects the sunlight, rather than a dark mask that will absorb the heat.
“Try and get all fixings and whatever materials you can in the shade, perhaps behind whatever units maybe on the roof. And avoid touching the roof if possible. Either wearing pants or using knee pads can make kneeling on the roof much less painful”
Alex Cotter | Height Safety Technician