A BRISBANE company has launched a revolutionary new software program that forecasts when workers are more likely to suffer from heat stress.
Leading environmental firm Katestone’s new software program Heat Manager can even determine how much water should be made available to workers and how to reschedule work rosters during extreme heat events.
Heat Manager is already generating interest amongst gas and mining companies in Australia who want to minimise the impacts of heat stress, which occurs when the body cannot maintain a healthy temperature.
Heat-related illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, dizziness or fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and a worsening of existing medical conditions.
Katestone Managing Director Christine Killip said with summer approaching, extreme weather would increase the likelihood of workplace heat stress incidents.
“Research has identified that the greatest number of workplace accidents occur in the hottest months, that workplace heat stress is impacting productivity and that the outdoor working environment is getting hotter,” she said.
“Therefore, it makes sense that better management of heat stress in the workplace will be beneficial to not only the health and wellbeing of workers but also to the bottom line of businesses.
“At Katestone we have been providing an early warning system for weather conditions conducive to heat stress for the Australian feedlot cattle industry for over 10 years. At present our cattle are better warned of the risk of heat stress than our workers. With Heat Manager we are trying to change this.”
She said temperature was just one component needed to assess heat stress risk.
“Heat Stroke can occur at surprisingly low temperatures, provided the evaporative power of the air is sufficiently reduced,” Ms Killip said.
“In fact, a study (Schickele, E. (1947)) of 157 heat stroke deaths in US military camps in 1947 discovered that the air temperatures at the time of death were, surprisingly, as low as 26 degrees, but were accompanied by relatively high humidities.”
Other factors used to assess the risk of heat stress include an individual’s biology, physical exertion, clothing and even hidden factors such as work culture. Due to the complexity of the phenomenon, predicting the occurrence of heat stress has been an almost impossible task until now.
“Recent advances in high speed computing, artificial intelligence and high resolution meteorological forecasting allows Heat Manager to not only predict the likelihood of heat stress, but also make recommendations to manage it. Heat Manager is the result of years of research, part funded by the federal government,” Ms Killip said.
On a daily basis, Heat Manager is capable of autonomously running thousands of risk assessments for a workplace, and alerting managers to issues before they arise.
By reviewing decades of weather data for a site, and profiling individual job conditions, Heat Manager is able to build a baseline Risk Profile for a workplace, on a job-by-job basis. Heat Manager can then estimate lost work hours due to heat stress, for each worker on each job.
For each Risk Assessment, Heat Manager builds a Heat Safe Plan that calculates required water per worker, and total water per shift. The forecasts enable site managers to plan water rations when working away from running water.
Regular breaks in heavy physical labour are important to avoid heat stress. Heat Manager can optimise breaks during the best times of the day and in the right duration, to minimise total break time, thereby maximising productivity.
As well as the mining and gas sectors, Katestone believes the software has the potential to be used in a variety of markets including sporting event management, construction and personal fitness.
Certified occupational hygienist Dustin Bennett said heat stress was a significant risk on many industrial sites, particularly during summer.
“By incorporating a tool such as Heat Manager into a sites’ heat management procedure the risk of a heat related illness can be reduced,” Mr Bennett said.
* Schickele, E. (1947) Environment and Fatal Heat Stroke: An Analysis of 157 cases occurring in the army in the US during World War II. Milit.Surg. 1947.