Australian employers must consider all options for cooling their workers to prevent potentially deadly heatstroke and heat stress before the onset of the summer, workplace products supplier Pryme Australia has warned.
Terry Houlihan, Pryme Australia managing director, said recent tragic events have shown rural workers — as well as those in confined workplaces such as warehouses, packing sheds, workshops and mining sites — are at real risk from rising temperatures.
"Temperatures around Australia are already soaring past 30 degrees and it's only going to get hotter," he said.
"People working in these high temperatures are susceptible to experiencing some form of heat stress. Heat stress is an umbrella term for several conditions that afflict individuals working in hot or humid environments."
Heat stress is a very real risk for many workers and can lead to injury, property loss or damage and a loss of productivity. When a body is under stress, cognitive abilities decrease. Workers have slower reaction times and fine motor skills are often impaired.
Houlihan said when a worker's body temperature rises above 40.5 degrees, it can have a significant impact on their health, judgement, productivity and morale.
There are four main heat related illnesses to look for: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and the most severe, heat stroke. The key to prevention is being aware and using appropriate PPE to help mitigate risks.
Houlihan said many employers are unaware of the array of new PPE products available to them which could reduce the risk of heat stress among their workers.
"Employers can now choose from a wide range of gear to help their workers stay cool in any situation including head and neck- cooling bandanas, neck ties, hard hat inserts and cooling vests," he said.
"These items are not gimmicks they are effective tools that have been scientifically proven to cool workers down who are in danger of overheating."
A recent University of Ottawa study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene concluded ice vests, such as those supplied by Pryme, were: "an effective strategy in reducing the level of thermal and cardiovascular strain in individuals performing prolonged continuous work in uncompensable heat stress conditions".
Pryme products which fall into this category include the Chill-Its 6200HVR Phase Change Cooling Vest, which keeps workers cooler, safer and more productive at a constant 14°C regardless of the ambient air temperature.
The vest has a cooling lifecycle which lasts up to four hours and an anatomical over-the-shoulder design which conforms to the body for improved comfort. It weighs less than comparable products and is more convenient because it doesn't need batteries, blowers or heavy ice to work.
Pryme also supplies a ground-breaking range of head, neck and hard hat cooling inserts which use absorbent acrylic polymers or hyper-evaporative PVA material. The products activate easily and quickly to provide a cooling sensation if they are soaked in water.
"Our bodies cool themselves through evaporation of sweat and if the sweat doesn't evaporate due to the lack of breeze in many industrial situations then we don't cool down properly," Houlihan said.
"However, a hyper-evaporative material increases evaporation of both water and sweat away from the skin causing a cooling effect — it aids what our bodies are doing naturally to cool themselves."
Products in this category include the Chill-Its 6602 Evaporative Cooling Towel, the Chill-Its 6700CT Cooling Bandana with Cooling Towel, Chill-Its 6710CT Evaporative Cooling Triangle Hat with Cooling Towel and the Chill-Its 6675 Class 2 Evaporative Cooling Vest.
Houlihan urged workers to take preventative actions such as regular hydration, monitoring hygiene, taking frequent breaks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
"A great way for workers to maintain a normal body temperature and increase their productivity in tough working conditions is to use a simple, low-cost cooling product like an evaporative cooling towel or bandana," he said.
"The head and neck have a high concentration of large blood vessels near the skin which can help keep a person's core body temperature in check. Placing a cooling product directly on these blood vessels can rapidly help lower a core body temp and provide relief in hot work environments."
"Using the new generation of cooling products and recognising the signs of a heat-related illness are critical to managing heat stress in the workplace this summer and reducing the risk of serious injury or death."
To receive a free cooling products brochure, call Pryme Australia on +617 3374 4544 or visit www.pryme.net.au.