How To Protect Your Employees During Hong Kong Summer?
Hong Kong weather is as unpredictable as the lottery; you never know what the outcome will be weekly. It may be sunny today and begin to pour the next day. The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) does a great job informing locals; however, even then, it is still a shock.
One thing is certain is that this Hong Kong summer will be scorching hot. With temperatures already reaching 35-plus degrees Celsius in May. As we get closer to the peak summer season, the temperatures are predicted to increase to dangerous levels.
The increasing Hong Kong temperature will negatively affect the employees who work outdoors for most or all of their jobs. However, the Hong Kong heat can be hazardous and seriously dangerous to all employees in some way.
It is the employer’s duty to make sure their employees are safe whenever they are working. Hence the article will explain the necessary steps employers must take to make sure they are protecting their employees during summer in Hong Kong.
Employees Affected the Most by Hong Kong Summer
There are a range of employees in Hong Kong whose main job is working outdoors or in hot environments. Such employees are more at risk of workplace injuries and illness due to the Hong Kong summer heat.
The employees that are at high risk include:
Chefs (the heat can turn the kitchen into a sauna)
In a recent Greenpeace’s survey done among outdoor workers in Hong Kong – 90% of workers agreed that the weather in Hong Kong has become warmer over the years and is affecting their work. Sadly, over 52% of workers mentioned they have felt signs of heat-related illnesses, including dizziness, difficulty breathing, headaches, and physical exhaustion.
Heat illnesses include heat strokes, heat rash, heat exhaustion or heat cramps. Heat stress related injuries or illnesses are serious and can lead to long-term damage or even death. Therefore, employers must do their part to help employees avoid such illness and heat risks.
Steps To Protect Employees During Hong Kong Summer Heat
Supply More Than Enough Water
Constant hydration is one of the keys to avoiding heat-related illnesses and making the Hong Kong summer bearable. Hence it is the employer’s duty to provide enough water for each employee during the working period. The offered water can be through dispensers or large amounts of portable water bottles.
Employers can also provide drinks with electrolytes which help increase hydration. These drinks include the Hong Kong famous Pocari Sweat in a bottle or powder form. Additionally, employers must remind employees of the importance of being hydrated throughout the day.
Health experts advise during summer; one should drink roughly two and a half litters of water and more if active in the heat. Hydration is always one of the best strategies to protect employees during the sweltering Hong Kong summer.
Follow Hong Kong Heat Stress Warning
The rising Hong Kong temperature has become a government concern too due to the increasing number of heat stroke cases. As a result, the labour department has recently released a new heat stress warning to guide high-risk employees.
The Hong Kong Observatory has labelled these warnings as amber, red and black—Amber – 30 degrees, red – 32 and black when it hits 34 plus. In addition, the warnings have a specific break suggestion depending on the labour category. Employees can also use the rest time calculator provided by the labour department, if unsure.
Picture from Labour Department
For example, scaffolding employees are under the ‘very high-risk category‘. During amber, very high-risk employees are suggested to take a 45-minute break every 15 minutes of work and do not work on red and black.
Employers are not legally required to follow these warnings. However, employers should respect these warning indications to make sure each employee is protected this Hong Kong summer. The warning could help avoid heat strokes immensely and save lives.
Cool Rest Area
There is no point in taking a break if workers must rest in the heat. Hence employers must provide comfortable rest facilities. A room or area where employees can cool down and relax with the help of fans or an AC. These rooms benefit employees to recover, refresh, eat and socialise. The better an employee feels, the better the work outcome – employee satisfaction is vital in such environments.
The room could be a container (temporarily made room) on the construction site or a room nearby the work location. The area can prevent workers from overheating and suffering heat stress symptoms if appropriately used. The space can also contain a water dispenser, bottles and healthy snacks. The room can also be a blessing when it begins to rain for short periods.
Additionally, all employers should provide a cool area to employees in Hong Kong. Even offices should ensure the air conditioning system is updated and examined often.
Provide Suitable Gear
Another Hong Kong summer protection strategy employers can executive is providing the right gear. The appropriate gear during high-temperature weather is vital to ensure employees do not overheat and are safe from the roasting sun (especially high-risk employees).
The appropriate gear should include lightweight clothes (uniform), safety UV protection sunglasses, hats or heatproof helmets and an adequate level of sunscreen. The right gear promotes airflow, sustains a healthy body temperature and protects employees from the harsh UV radiation.
After the gear is given – employers must ensure that each employee wears them on duty. Employees should not be able to work without their heat protective gear to encourage a safe workplace during Hong Kong summers.
Educate About Workplace Safety in The Hong Kong Heat
Heat strokes need immediate medical attention and can take weeks to recover from. Without proper medical care, it can lead to death. Employees should understand the dangers of working in the high heat of Hong Kong summer. Employers must provide professional education (seminars) on the topic to help employees and the company.
The seminar should inform each employee all about heat strokes, how to prevent them, symptoms, where to report illness and company mandatory requirements. Additionally, when employees know more about heat safety, they will be more motivated to drink water, wear their gear, take breaks and be more careful.
The information can save employees from the invisible workplace injuries and even death. Additionally, employers can print the knowledge into the employee handbook, so it is easily accessible, and they have medical contact details.
Avoid Long Hours
Sometimes employers focus on the outcome and want the work completed as soon as possible. However, this attitude may not be the best during Hong Kong summer. The more hours employees work in the heat, the higher the chance of heat strokes.
Employers should convince employees to take frequent breaks respectfully and only allow a certain number of hours in the heat daily. Avoiding long hours in the Hong Kong heat can help prevent heat stress tremendously. Employees should always be more important than the speed of the outcome.
Forcing employees to work all day and skipping breaks will lead to work injuries and huge employer liability risks. Employers are always liable to pay for medical bills and compensation if an employee suffers work injuries. Additionally, the Hong Kong labour department can heavily fine the business if it is evident the injury was due to employer negligence.
Finally, each company that deals with high-risk employees should have a procedure to deal with possible heat stress cases at the workplace.
How Employee Compensation Insurance Can Help Employers in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong, employees are entitled to employee compensation payments, if they suffer work injuries or illnesses. The payment includes the employer covering all medical expenses, salary while recovering and possible compensation (if partially or permanently disabled). The expenses can add up to a large amount for the employer, depending on the severity of the injury.
Heat stroke injuries can always occur even after these steps due to the heat or employees not following instructions. Therefore employers must purchase employee compensation insurance.
Employee compensation insurance will cover the expenses related to the work injury or illness. The insurance will reimburse the employer for the medical and compensation cost they provided to the employee. The insurance is legally mandatory, and high-quality employee compensation insurance can help the employee and employer during tough times.