As summer quickly approaches, and with some hot spells already being experienced across the country, it’s important to ensure you are taking steps to keep your worksite and your employees safe.
While there is lots of fun to be had in the sun, it can also lead to serious injury and illness. Here’s a rundown of some of the key considerations to keep your workplace safe as the mercury rises.
1. UV protection
It’s no secret that the Australian sun is fierce all year round, but especially so in the summer months. Yet, it’s not unusual to see workers – especially sole contractors on residential sites – dressed in just singlets or even shirtless. Yes, dressing like this can possibly help to keep you cooler, but the risk of sunburn is just too great. Modern UV protective fabrics make use of the latest technologies to provide excellent sun protection all while helping to keep you cool. These fabrics are breathable, yet still protect you from the sun. Choosing light colours also helps to remain cool.
Of course, it also goes without saying that sunscreen, hats and appropriate protective sunglasses should also be worn. Safety sunglasses, rather than fashion sunglasses, are recommended both for UV protection and to provide added safety from things like construction material fragments.
It’s a common image in advertising, beads of condensation running down the sides of a lovely cold can or bottle of soft drink. But did you know that sugary drinks can actually accelerate dehydration? The best choice is always water, with low sugar sports drinks an alternative. Make sure that your worksite has a source of drinking water available at all times.
3. Insects and other creatures
Insect bites can be just a slight inconvenience or a serious health threat. In tropical areas, mosquito bites can spread a range of life-threatening diseases, so a quality insect repellent is a sensible part of a work kit.
In other areas, spider bites can be a very real risk, as can snakes. Worksites can provide lots of hidey-holes for these animals, so it’s a good idea to encourage some common sense checking processes before disturbing materials.
4. Heat stroke
More than just getting a bit hot, heat stroke can be fatal. When overheated, the body can start to shut down with brain damage, kidney failure and heart failure all possible consequences. If you or an employee start to feel dizzy, weak or nauseous, you should take a break immediately and call for medical help if symptoms don’t improve within a short time frame. If possible, move to a cooler space – such as indoors or an air conditioned vehicle.
5. Food storage
Hot weather and poorly stored food can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can make you ill. If your worksite isn’t able to provide refrigerated food storage for workers, encourage your team to practice good food safety. Ice packs and insulated bags can be very effective in keeping food at a safe temperature, especially when kept in a shaded area. Avoid storing perishable food in cars, which can quickly reach very hot temperatures.
6. Fire safety
Australia is also renowned for bushfires, and fire prevention should be an element of your workplace safety plan. Make sure hazardous materials are safely stored and that flammable debris, like loose branches and leaf litter, are regularly cleared from the site.
7. Lockdown practices
Summer in Australia also means the festive season. For many sites, this means a lockdown period over the public holidays. It’s important to make sure a worksite is suitably secured during this period to prevent accidents and unauthorised access. Secure fencing should be used as much as practical, as should warning signs about access. Any dangerous goods and substances should be locked away, with all plant and machinery suitably secured. As summer also tends to be storm season, care should also be taken to make sure any loose objects are secured to prevent flying objects during high winds.
What other steps do you take to keep your workplace safe over the summer?