Prevention and protection from heat illness

Advice about preventing heat illness from working outdoors in hot weather or where heat is generated as part of work.


Signs and symptoms of heat illness

Heat illness occurs when the body can't properly cool itself.

The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather with high humidity, sweating isn't enough.

If symptoms occur, workers need to rest in a cool, well ventilated area and drink cool fluids. If symptoms do not improve quickly, or skin is very hot and dry to touch, seek urgent medical help.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • sweaty skin
  • weakness
  • cramps
  • nausea/vomiting
  • fast and weak pulse rate

Symptoms of heat stroke

  • red, hot, dry skin
  • intense thirst
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • high temperature
  • dizziness or confusion
  • convulsions
  • fainting

Identify heat illness hazards

The risk of heat illness can also be minimised by modifying workload. This may include:

Workplace duties

  • reschedule work so the hot tasks are performed during the cooler part of the day
  • work from a different location
  • eeduce the time spent doing hot tasks
  • arrange for more workers to do the job
  • provide extra rest breaks in a cool area
  • using mechanical aids to reduce physical exertion
  • ensure workers have access to cool water and stay hydrated
  • provide extra rest breaks in a cool area
  • regularly check if workers/colleagues are showing signs and symptoms of heat illness (see signs and symptoms below)
  • use air conditioning and fans to increase air movement
  • use shade cloth when working outdoors
  • put blinds or curtains down to block out sunlight
  • use exhaust ventilation to remove heat or steam from hot equipment
  • move hot equipment away from people
  • monitor the temperature
    • While there's no maximum temperature set under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 or the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, for a worker to stop working - some workplaces may have their own policy around this. Check what your policy is.

Worker duties

  • look at different options to get to and from work, or a different work location, if public transport could be affected by the weather
  • wear light clothing that still provides adequate protection
  • wear hats and light clothing that still provide sun protection
  • have cool drinking water close to where you are working
  • drink water, even if you aren't thirsty - every 15 minutes

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