The current heat wave means workers and employers (PCBUs) will need to be even more vigilant than usual about working in extreme temperatures.
“Employers have a legal obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) to identify risk in the workplace and mitigate that risk appropriately." – so the PCBU must, having identified heat as a risk to workplace health and safety, manage that risk in a similar manner to other workplace risks, e.g. eliminate or minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable!
“HSWA is not prescriptive so does not specify extreme temperatures at which workers are able to stop work for health and safety reasons."
"Workers and businesses need to be aware that there is a link between heat and fatigue, which leads to potential for more fatigue-related accidents.”
HEAT RELATED RISKS:
Heat Stress – the net load on the worker from the combined contributions of metabolic heat, environmental factors and clothing (e.g. workwear, PPE etc).
Heat Cramps – earliest signs of heat-related illness, resulting in muscle cramps due to loss of body fluids/salts.
Heat Exhaustion – symptoms include heavy sweating, cool moist skin, nausea, headaches – can quickly develop into heat stroke if untreated.
Heat Stroke – the most severe heat-related symptom/illness where core body temperature exceeds 40 °C
Solar UV Radiation – exposure may increase the chance of developing serious health conditions such as skin cancer.
Controls for minimising the risk of harm from extreme workplace temperatures include:
- Reducing your exposure to heat wherever possible by: working in the shade; rescheduling non-essential work; rotating workers;
- Providing ventilation, and regular and sufficient hydration (drink plenty of water and avoid sugary/energy drinks);
- Reducing the amount of physical work a person has to do and provide adequate rest periods;
- Providing first aid training to recognise and treat any heat-related disorders;
- Providing suitable protective clothing.
Visit the WorkSafe website for more useful information on keeping you and your workers safe this summer.