Qld Govt releases guidance to manage heat in the workplace
With temperatures forecast to reach more than 40°C in parts of Queensland this summer, the state government has urged businesses to have plans in place to help keep workers safe. Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said employers have an obligation to protect their workers from heat-related illness under work health and safety laws. Grace said that every single worker in Queensland has the right to go home to their loved ones at the end of the day, and employers have an obligation to keep them safe.
“Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have a brilliant, free, comprehensive guide about working in heat that I’d encourage everyone to have a look at. Working in the heat can not only be uncomfortable: it can be dangerous and even fatal,” Grace said.
In 2020, a worker collapsed and died after picking fruit on a farm in high temperatures, and in 2023 a North Queensland worker died from multiple organ failure due to heat-related illness. In both cases, the businesses involved were prosecuted and fined for failing to comply with health and safety duties.
“The solutions can be as simple as providing shade, avoiding outdoor work during the hottest part of the day, and ensuring inductions for new workers cover key safety measures,” Grace said.
There are a range of risk factors that need to be taken into consideration to protect workers. Exposure to direct and reflected sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day, is a major risk, but air movement and radiant heat from plant and equipment being used must also be considered. An individual’s risk factors must be considered in conjunction with environmental factors and the nature of the work. The type of work, clothing, medications, hydration levels, fitness and medical conditions are all part of the consideration.
“Remember, conditions can change daily so regular risk assessments are vital,” Grace said.
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