SA: hot weather prompts regulator safety warning

SafeWork SA recently issued a 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, and the regulator urged employers to adjust workplace activities or make extra provisions where necessary.

With the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) recently forecasting high temperatures for some parts of the state, SafeWork SA said 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.

WHS 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, the regulator said employers are to follow the WHS 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 also called 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.

“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,’ said SafeWork SA executive director, Glenn Farrell.

“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.”