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Preparing for a Heatwave. What you need to know NOW!

With the predicted heatwave conditions of high-30s and low-40s for large parts of the continent, particularly inland Australia, what can organisations do to prepare, plan and respond to the emerging heatwave risk?

Staff WHS & First Aid Considerations

The July 1995, a heatwave in Chicago killed 522 people.  Exposure to heatwave conditions and sunlight will overheat the body which may result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion and/or hyperthermia.  A heat stoke can be deadly.

STAFF AT RISK: Staff in non-air-conditioned rooms, working outdoors, under excessive physical exertion, on prescribed medication, who have a current viral infection or wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against hazards are at higher risk.

RISK TREATMENTS: Risks to exposure to high temperatures should be reduced, treated or eliminated by the following measures:

  • slow down and avoid strenuous activity
  • stay indoors as much as possible and stay out of the sun
  • postpone outdoor games and activities
  • wear lightweight, loose fitting, light coloured clothes
  • protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat
  • drink plenty of water regularly
  • avoid salty food and drinks with alcohol or caffeine
  • check up frequently on out door staff, staff who are traveling, elderly staff, disabled staff, sick staff and staff on medication
  • listen to local weather forecasts and traffic conditions and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes

SYMPTOMS: The symptoms of heat induced illness are:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • malaise
  • dizziness
  • hot, dry, skin
  • heat cramps (muscular pains and spasms caused by heavy exertion)
  • collapse or unconsciousness (Heat Stroke)

MANAGEMENT: If a person is suffering from heat induced illness, first aid will be necessary.   

Heat Exhaustion:

  • lie the victim down
  • loosen and remove excessive clothing
  • moisten the skin with moist cloth
  • cool by fanning
  • give water to during if fully conscious
  • call for ambulance – dial triple zero 000
  • keep victim in shade

Heat Stroke (a life threatening condition):

  • call for ambulance – dial triple zero 000
  • resuscitate
  • place victim in cool environment
  • moisten the skin with moist cloth
  • cool by fanning
  • apply wrapped ice packs to neck, groin and armpits

Business Continuity Risks

Besides the human factors, heatwave conditions will impact infrastructure, assets and equipment in your business and potentially reduce your service and operational levels. Organisations may experience one or more of these business disruption events:

  • increase in staff absenteeism due to staff preferring to stay at home to avoid illness
  • increase in staff requiring first aid treatment – ensure your first aid officers know what to do and have additional first aid supplies
  • increase in power outages/ brown outs – so ensure your back up generators are ready to go
  • unavailability air-conditioners due to blackouts
  • unavailability of communication lines due to blackouts
  • unavailability of information systems due to blackouts
  • electronic office security systems and fire warning systems may be compromised during loss of power
  • heavy traffic congestion for staff who travel caused by power outages and over heated vehicles
  • longer public transport delays caused by power outages, broken down vehicles, mechanical failures, kinked railway lines and sagging power lines
  • staff using public transport or cut off by bush fires may be stranded
  • increased risk of bush fires resulting in reduced air quality
  • concrete roads have been known to “explode” lifting concrete resulting in traffic congestion

At InConsult, we like to help you stay InControl. Remember prevention is always better than the cure.  Take time to review your heatwave preparedness now and ensure your human resources, risk management and WHS teams are ready.