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Beat the summer heat and keep your team cool


30 November 2023

As Australia heats up temperatures are expected to rise above 35 degrees, so how are bosses keeping their teams cool?

Thermal comfort plans include using fans to expel hot air, casual-dress policies (ties off, shoes off) and other more novel tactics, such as buying ice-creams and having the local Mr Whippy visit, or providing soft drinks and passes to the local swimming pool are all cool ideas.

On the most extreme weather days, employees (especially in the trades) are even being sent home.

Watch the weather forecast temperatures. This allows you to plan ahead. Forecasters start talking about extreme weather three to four days in advance and so if you stay informed, particularly if you have an external business, you can start letting customers know they may need to be flexible in the coming week – most people understand.

People can and do have strokes, terrible rashes and debilitating cramps because of extreme heat.

Unions would like to see more breaks within the day in recognition of the damage heat can do to the body and our advice to small businesses is 10 minutes’ extra break is better than closing down for the entire afternoon because under the Workplace Health and Safety Act you must protect your staff.

Research from the Australian National University confirms Aussie workers are putting their health at risk by overestimating their capacity to work in the heat. Most of the 500 workers in the national survey believed they could function normally in temperatures 5-10 degrees hotter than they actually can.

ANU heat expert Dr Liz Hanna says it means workers, including farmers, builders and people working in essential services such as paramedics and district nurses, begin to suffer headaches and fatigue at temperatures they thought it was OK to keep working normally in.

The cross-industry study also found only 20 per cent of workers show up to work fully hydrated.

Employers must do more to ensure employees are adequately protected from the heat.

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