Vic employers urged to manage the risks of working in heat

Monday, 04 March, 2024

Vic employers urged to manage the risks of working in heat

WorkSafe Victoria has issued a reminder for employers to prepare to protect their workers and community from the risk of extreme heat and fire danger, as temperatures rise across much of the state. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers should be ready to make accommodations to ensure they are not leaving their workers or others exposed. Beer added that employers have a legal obligation to monitor their workplace conditions so they can identify and manage any risk to health and safety, including those posed by events such as extreme weather.

“Work-related hazards could include exposure to heat, fire and smoke, making it critical that employers and workers in high-risk areas are alert to the dangers and prepared to act,” Beer said.

WorkSafe has advised employers to avoid conducting any work activities that may provide an ignition source, such as welding or hot works, on days when a total fire ban has been declared. Employers are also encouraged to reconsider the use of other machinery near combustible material. Beer said business operators may need to think about postponing or relocating their work to a time or place with less risk.

“Extreme heat can be deadly, so it’s crucial that employers reduce the risks to workers who are out in the weather, as well as those who may be working in spaces without ventilation or air conditioning. Also be mindful of the risk to workers exposed to bushfire smoke — and consider avoiding outdoor work on days where the air quality rating is poor, very poor or hazardous,” Beer said.

Employers are urged to consult with workers and any health and safety representatives, prepare a tailored strategy for their individual circumstances and ensure workers are educated on how to recognise fire risks in their workplace and heat-related illnesses in themselves and others. Common symptoms of heat-related illness include dizziness, feeling weak, pale skin, heavy sweating, headaches, convulsions, clumsiness and nausea or vomiting.

Farmers have also been reminded to review their farm fire plan and implement key actions to ensure they are prepared, should their property be affected by fire. To manage heat risks, WorkSafe advises employers to reschedule work so physically demanding jobs can be performed during the cooler part of the day and to work from a cooler location, if possible. Employers should also encourage workers to wear light clothing that provides adequate protection and ensure that workers have access to cool water. Using mechanical aids to reduce physical exertion is also recommended.

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