Warning issued on dangers of working in extreme heat

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Photo: SafetyCulture Library

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety has issued a reminder to workers about the dangers of working in high heat environments.

Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Director Mines Safety Andrew Chaplyn said the extremes of Western Australia’s climate means that heat stress is a significant risk that needs to be managed across the State’s mining and exploration operations.

“Supervisors and workers need to understand the risks and symptoms of heat stress. Workers should report any signs of heat stress to a supervisor,” Mr. Chaplyn said.

“Heat stroke can cause permanent damage to the brain and other vital organs, and can even result in death.

“It is critical that urgent medical treatment is sought for anyone suspected of suffering heat-related illness.”

According to DMIRS, some of the key risk factors for workers are:

  • High temperatures and/or humidity
  • Radiant heat from hot surfaces
  • Hot work processes (e.g. welding, work near furnaces/kilns/boilers etc.)
  • Lack of hydration
  • High work rate and strenuous physical exertion
  • Working without recovery breaks
  • Lack of acclimatisation
  • Work where heavy personal protective equipment (PPE) is required
  • Personal risk factors (e.g. age, physical fitness, medical conditions, drug/alcohol use).

To minimise the possibility or likelihood of heat stress, employers should not expose workers to the extremes of heat. They should also isolate sources of heat, so far as is practicable, through shielding, containment, and remote handling techniques.

Managers and supervisors should ensure workers are trained to recognise early symptoms of heat stress, provide detailed safe work practices that identify the hazards and controls for working in hot and humid conditions and ensure controls are implemented and adjust work output expectations acknowledging the difference in acclimatisation between workers.

“Added to this danger is the fact that many mining operations are in remote areas in Western Australia where medical assistance is not easily available,” Mr. Chaplyn said.

“This is especially the case for exploration work and travel between mine sites.”

The DMIRS has guidance for remote area work, a guideline on the management and prevention of heat stress and links to further information on its website.

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