The dangers of working in high-heat environments

Reminder about working safely in extreme conditions on WA mine sites and remote areas.
Date: Tuesday, 03 December 2019

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) reminds workers to guard against the effects of extreme temperatures in work environments following a forecast of above-average temperatures this summer.

DMIRS Director Mines Safety Andrew Chaplyn said the extremes of Western Australia's climate means heat stress is a significant risk that needs to be managed across 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," he 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."

Heat stress & heat stroke

Heat stress can be avoided by taking simple steps such as drinking cool clean water at frequent intervals, having rest pauses in a cool place and helping sweat evaporate by increasing air circulation.

Heat stroke is a far more serious condition that must be treated immediately.

The signs of heat stroke are cessation in sweating, high body temperature and hot and dry skin.  Confusion and loss of consciousness may occur.

If heat stroke is suspected, the person should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

Until medical treatment is available, the person should be cooled down as quickly as possible by methods such as soaking clothing in cold water and increasing air movement by fanning.

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).

Some of the measures that can be taken in order to minimise the possibility or likelihood of heat stress could include:


  • not exposing workers to the extremes of heat so far as is practicable;
  • isolating sources of heat, so far as is practicable, through shielding, containment and remote handling techniques; and
  • adopting safe work practices and appropriate administrative procedures such as job rotation and frequent breaks.

Managers and supervisors

  • ensuring workers are trained to recognise early symptoms of heat stress;
  • providing detailed safe work practices that identify the hazards and controls for working in hot and humid conditions and ensure controls are implemented; and
  • adjusting work output expectations acknowledging the difference in acclimatisation between workers.

"Adding to the danger posed by heat stress is the fact many mining operations are in remote areas in Western Australia where medical assistance may not be 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.