Better safe than sorry when working in heat

WorkCover NSW is warning businesses and workers to take precautions to prevent fatigue and heat stroke during the next few days with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting hot weather conditions across NSW.

 General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson said the BOM was predicting day time temperatures in the low to high 30C for the next two days in parts of the State.

“Businesses and workers, especially those working in heat-related conditions, need to be vigilant to the risks of working in high temperatures,” Mr Watson said.

“Fatigue and heat-stress can affect a worker’s health, reducing their performance and productivity, and increasing the chance of a workplace injury through the reduced ability to concentrate, recognise risks and communicate effectively.

“Businesses and workers should work in partnership to protect themselves from the effects of working in heat.

“If possible, businesses should try to re-schedule work to cooler times of the day such as early mornings or late afternoons.

“If this is not possible, ensure workers have access to plain drinking water, at least 200mL every 15-20 minutes, shaded rest areas and frequent rest breaks.”

Mr Watson said that heat-related illness can prove fatal.

“In the three years to July 2011, there were 497 claims for workplace fatigue and heat stroke at a cost of $4.3 million,” he said.

“Common heat illness symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, general weakness and collapse. If you or your workers show any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance.”

WorkCover recommends businesses take the following actions to reduce workers’ exposure to UV radiation and prevent fatigue:

  • Provide and maintain equipment and shelter to protect workers from the sun
  • Provide sun safety information, instruction, training and supervision
  • Rotate tasks to lessen exposure to the sun as well as mental and physical fatigue, and schedule work at cooler times of the day
  • Use rest periods in addition to scheduled meal breaks
  • Provide water and encourage workers to stay hydrated
  • Provide personal protective equipment such as:
    • clothing with UPF 50+ rating, loose shirts with long sleeves, collars and long pants
    • broad spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+)
    • sunglasses which meet Australian Standards for UV protection
  • Use plant, machinery and equipment to eliminate or reduce the excessive physical demands of the job

Further information on fatigue management and working safely in the sun is available from or by calling 13 10 50. Other sun safety resources are available from the Cancer Council at

9 October 2013