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Summer is coming – what shall we do to protect the team?

Well believe it, Summer is coming and if the weather patterns are anything to go by to date, our very wet winter may mean a very hot dry summer. 

Heat is a silent killer in the workplace and on the job site, preparing for the heat starts before the workday begins

I’ve even noticed a little sun burn about the odd warm day. While the sun is a welcome sight after a terribly wet winter for some it comes with danger also.

Fencing Contractors are out in the elements and usually the heat of the day gets to you at some stage. So how are you protecting your team and yourself from this environmental risk?

Why protect yourself and team? 

It’s good business to make sure the team can work safely and talk about how this can be achieved when it’s getting hot. 

Productivity can be greatly reduced in the heat of the day so talk about early starts and coming back later when cool.

Fatigue can be a danger that comes from excess heat exposure also, what’s your plan to manage this?


Due to the nature of the work increased chances of Melanoma due to the sun exposure is high for New Zealand. Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and the fourth most common cancer in New Zealand. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world – each year approximately 2,500 people are diagnosed with the condition and over 300 die from it.
Melanomas can occur at any stage in life, though it is rare for melanomas to occur in children and teenagers. The chances of developing a melanoma increase with age. You should regularly get a skin check or mole mapping to monitor any changes in your skin. Always be aware of the signs to look for – early detection may save your life. 

Heat is a silent killer in the workplace and on the job site, preparing for the heat starts before the workday begins.

Staying hydrated with water, not too many energy drinks that doesn’t help with rehydration. Wearing the right clothing can go a long way in protecting workers from heat stress. However, you may need to change the times you work as temperatures peak. A long lunch may be required.

The Importance of Clothing

Clothing and personal protection equipment (PPE) play a major role in minimising heat related illness on the job site. Many workers adapt to the hazards or discomfort of the work by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, but this can make cooling difficult. 

PPE can trap heat and become the risk, even when the equipment is designed for hot weather use. It may be necessary to use more workers on shorter shifts to give everyone more breaks from wearing PPE as they rotate in and out of the work area.

Some manufacturers are designing clothing such as cooling vests that hold ice packs to alleviate the heat. 

Employer Protective Measures

Employers need to make sure that their workers can keep hydrated easily and can protect their skin from UV radiation damage. There are a range of protective measures as follows:

  • If possible, plan outdoor work in sunny weather to limit duration and intensity of employee exposure to direct sunlight (11am to 3pm sun rays are most intense)
  • Limit duration of exposure, if possible, when UV index is high (3 or above), do indoor work if possible
  • Provide shade if possible, or if that is not possible, there should be shade for breaks
  • Give information to employees about dangers of sun exposure
  • Ensure workers have easy access to safe drinking water. Workers should have enough time to hydrate – as the outdoor temperature rises the frequency of water breaks should go up
  • Inform employees about the Sun Smart code
  • Educate and encourage employees to self-check skin for signs of skin cancer
  • Check UV index, if 3 or above greater risk
  • Ensure breaks are taken out of direct sunlight
  • Encourage employees to cover up, keep clothing on with sleeves down, collars up and wear clothing with high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), 15 or more, wear wide-brimmed hat
  • Ensure employees do not strip off clothing when it is sunny
  • Provide sunscreen, SPF of at least 30+ with a high UVA protection and water resistance. Reapply regularly. Check your sunscreen is correct for the required use and is supported by the Cancer foundation – some aren’t as good as you think.
  • Provide sunglasses, wraparound are the best.

Sun Smart Code

Please make it easy for workers to follow the SunSmart code messages – 5 Ss:

  • Slip on clothing that covers your skin, such as long sleeves, collared t-shirts.
  • Slop on sunscreen on exposed areas. Use sunscreen SPF minimum 30 or higher. Apply 20 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours – more often if perspiring.
  • Slap on a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Seek shade – especially if outdoors between 11am and 3pm when UV rays are at their strongest. If possible, schedule outdoor work before 11am or after 3pm.
  • Slide on wrap around sunglasses to protect your eyes

Symptoms and first aid treatment options

Below shows symptoms and treatment options for common heat-related illnesses. If you notice signs of heat-related illness or injury in yourself or a workmate, stop work and tell your supervisor.

Condition Symptoms Treatment
Heat rash
  • Small, red, itchy bumps on skin
  • Move to a cooler, less humid environment
  • Keep the affected skin dry
Heat cramps
  • Muscular pains and spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs

See a doctor or nurse if you:

  • have a heart condition, or
  • are on a low-sodium diet
  • Drink water or electrolyte replacement solutions.
  • Rest in a cool environment and do not return to strenuous activity until a few hours after the cramps have ended.
  • See a doctor or nurse if cramps do not go away within one hour
Heat Exhaustion 
  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness/weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fast and weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Stop work immediately.
  • Move to a cool place, out of the sun and away from any other heat sources.
  • Drink water or electrolyte replacement solutions.
  • Take action to cool down (remove clothes, sponge with cold water, apply wet towels).
  • See a doctor or nurse if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour.
Heat Stroke – high body temperature (39.4°C+) 
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Red hot dry skin (no sweating)
  • Throbbing headache
  • Nausea
  • Rapid, strong pulse
 Call 111 – for immediate medical assistance. Then:

  • move to a cool place with circulating air
  • remove or loosen unnecessary clothing
  • cool down – for example, by:
    •  splashing room temperature water on skin, or sponging skin
    • using a fan to direct a gentle airflow over your body
    • applying cold packs or wrapped ice to your neck, groin, and armpits
  • Monitor body temperature and continue cooling efforts until body temperature drops below 38.5°C
  • If fully conscious, sit up and drink cool, but not cold, fluid, such as water or an electrolyte solution

 Look for guidelines about health and the sunshine at:

There are numerous resources available on sun safety and Melanoma. Get familiar with this summer time risk and do what you can to mitigate the damage that may occur.

And then go swimming. Nothing like a quick dip in the water trough!

Don’t let heat stress become a silent danger on your work site. With a generous supply of water, a steady source of electrolytes, and a place to get out of the heat, work can safely continue through the summer.

Keep safe out there and keep checking you’re all ok.   

Article supplied by Deb and team

Published in the Business, Health & Safety, Environment Feature in WIRED Issue 67 / December 2022 by Fencing Contractors NZ