Heatwave prompts SafeWork SA warning

07 March 2024

High temperatures across this weekend have prompted a SafeWork SA warning to employers to enact their hot weather policy or take appropriate measures to avoid heat-related harm to workers.

Workers exposed to high temperatures are at risk of fatigue, dehydration, sunburn and heat stress with 37 degrees temperatures forecast for parts of the state today. SafeWork SA is urging employers to adjust workplace activities or make extra provisions where necessary.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has forecast a maximum temperature of 40 degrees Celsius for Adelaide tomorrow. Temperatures in the north of the state are likely to be even higher with up to 41 degrees Celsius predicted for Port Augusta, Oodnadatta and Coober Pedy.

SafeWork SA recommends these tips for those working outdoors on a hot day:

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • Apply sunscreen frequently
  • Wear clothes that cover the arms and legs
  • Wear a hat
  • Allow for additional rest breaks in the shade
  • Provide temporary shade where this is not available
  • Adapt schedules to avoid strenuous work during the hottest parts of the day
  • Gradually acclimatise the body to working in the heat

Larger businesses with regional operations are encouraged to alert staff in regional offices of heatwave conditions/warnings in forecast districts and ensure they are taking the appropriate measures to keep staff cool and hydrated.

Work Health and Safety laws in Australia do not specify a ‘stop work’ temperature due to the range of factors which make working in heat hazardous, including humidity, air flow, the physical intensity and duration of the work, and whether workers are physically fit and acclimatised to the conditions.

However, many workplaces have a ‘heat clause’ included in their employment agreements. For workplaces that do not have this clause, employers are to follow the Work Health and Safety laws and provide a safe work environment.

Duty holders, principal contractors, builders, labour hire agencies and employers must identify and control solar UV radiation exposure risks and heat related hazards, so far as reasonably practicable.

SafeWork SA is also calling on members of the public to be respectful of workers during heatwaves and to consider the extreme conditions individuals may be working under while providing a service to others.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Glenn Farrell said employers and business operators have a duty of care to protect staff and contractors from extreme heat.

‘One of the most critical things businesses and employers can do is to consider how they can re-arrange work activities, to best protect their workers,’ Mr Farrell said.

‘Apart from the obvious risks of dehydration and heat stress, heat-induced fatigue can be a serious safety issue for those operating heavy plant and equipment.

‘Employers are advised to educate their workplaces about how to minimise risks at work during heatwaves and to provide resources and information to prepare staff for working in the heat.’

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