The dangers of working in high heat environments

Workers are being reminded about the dangers of working in high heat environments on WA mine sites and remote areas.
Date: Thursday, 09 November 2017

It might start out with an increase in sweating, before feeling dizzy and suffering from cramps. Suddenly you’re experiencing extreme weakness, nausea, a headache and a weak rapid pulse.

Your body is under heat stress and without intervention you could be heading towards heat stroke.

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.”

Some of the key risk factors for workers are:

  • Lack of acclimatisation
  • Low level of physical fitness
  • Medical conditions (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gastroenteritis)
  • Some medications
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Dehydration
  • Age (especially workers older than 60).

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