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Employers are urged to adopt shift work arrangements for employees to reduce their exposure to the hot environment, or arrange appropriate rest breaks for them.

As of 6.45 am on 5 July (Monday), the Hong Kong Observatory has issued the "Very Hot Weather Warning", prompting the Labour Department (LD) to urge employers to put in place measures to prevent heatstroke among their workforce.

Roles such as construction workers, cleaning workers, kitchen workers, and porters, are more prone to heatstroke as they may be working for long hours in a hot or humid environment, especially if appropriate preventive measures have not been taken.

Thus, the LD has reminded employers and employees to take the following precautions to prevent heatstroke:

Measures to be taken by employers

  1. Take heed of the weather report and adopt shift work arrangements for employees to reduce their exposure to the hot environment, or arrange appropriate rest breaks for them during very hot periods;
  2. Avoid working under direct sunlight and set up temporary sunshade wherever possible;
  3. Provide cool potable water for employees at all times during work. If necessary, provide drinks containing electrolytes for employees to replenish loss of salt during profuse sweating;
  4. Minimise physical demands by using tools or mechanical aids at work;
  5. Increase airflow by enhancing ventilation or air-conditioning as appropriate;
  6. Isolate heat-generating facilities at the workplace and use insulating materials to minimise heat dissipation to the other work areas; and
  7. Provide relevant information and training for employees on heatstroke such as preventive measures and first aid treatment.

The LD also urged employers to provide for employees covered space with good ventilation for rest and meals.

The guidelines added: "Furthermore, some employees may have difficulty in adapting to a hot working environment owing to their own health conditions. Employers should take this into account and consider the recommendations of their doctors when assigning work to these employees."

Measures to be taken by employees

  1. Wear clothing made of suitable materials (for example, cotton) that is loose-fitting and light-coloured to help heat dissipation, minimise heat absorption and allow sweat evaporation;
  2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat when working outdoors;
  3. Drink plenty of water or appropriate beverages with electrolytes to replenish the fluids and salt lost through sweating; and
  4. Whenever there are any symptoms of heat-related illnesses, rest in a cool or shady place and drink water, and inform supervisors to take appropriate action immediately.

For reference, the symptoms of heat-related illnesses include feeling thirsty, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, muscle spasm or even mental confusion, and loss of consciousness or convulsion in severe cases.

Employers, specifically those engaged in construction or outdoor cleaning work, can make use of the following two leaflets to further information: "Checklist for Heat Stress Assessment at Construction Sites" and "Checklist for Heat Stress Assessment at Outdoor Cleansing Workplaces".

As for heat stress assessment at a workplace in general, employers can refer to a booklet called "Risk Assessment for the Prevention of Heat Stroke at Work" also provided by the LD.

Photo / 123RF

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