The following is an abridgement of an article originally published on the WorkSafe NT website.
Two workers in the Northern Territory’s Top End have suffered heat related illnesses and been hospitalised during the first heatwave of the 2023 build-up.
There were two incidents. The first incident involved a 17-year-old apprentice who worked on a roof for a full day in the Darwin rural area. The following day at work the apprentice was described as erratic in behaviour and making mistakes. After feeling unwell, the apprentice saw a doctor was immediately sent to the hospital where they were diagnosed with heat stroke.
The second incident involved a 45-year-old seasonal worker from the Pacific Islands who collapsed while picking mangoes. The worker was hospitalised and treated for dehydration.
Both workers were exposed to extreme heatwave conditions that had been forecasted by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). A heatwave warning was issued on Tuesday 10th October 2023 (Figure 1).
NT WorkSafe is conducting ongoing enquiries to determine the cause of the incidents and the appropriate regulatory response. The preliminary findings indicate that the workplaces failed to ensure the workers were working in safe conditions and had adequate measures to prevent and manage heat related illnesses. [An integrated safety management system helps formalise job hazard analysis to tighten the workplace safety net and reduce oversights]
The human body needs to maintain a body temperature of approximately 37 degrees (celsius). Working in heat can be hazardous and can cause harm to workers if the workers’ body temperature rises above 37 degrees for too long a period and is unable to cool.
Heat related illnesses range in seriousness from dehydration, to heat exhaustion, to heatstroke. Heatstroke is the most serious heat related illness that can lead to permanent disability or death without emergency treatment.
For more information on working in heat, please refer to the following sources:
Two workers hospitalised during season’s first heatwave by NT WorkSafe, 3rd November, 2023.