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I’m worried about getting heat stress. What can I do?

On days like these, its important to ensure that all workers are aware of their work health and safety rights if required to work in the heat and humidity.

While there are no specific national guidelines for working in heat, every person conducting a business or undertaking (employers) have a duty and responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers, including providing a safe working environment, safe working procedures, and access to amenities to ensure the welfare of all workers.

Where there is a foreseeable risk such as a high temperature day or days coming up, every employer should have in place suitable control measures to ensure that workers are protected from the risk of heat stress or heat related illnesses.

This means first of all considering whether the risk can be eliminated by providing workers with other forms of work to do for the period of time, and if that is not possible, considering how to minimise the risk of harm by limiting the nature of tasks and duties or hours of work for particular work such as manual labour, or providing access to drinking water and amenities with air conditioning and ensuring regular scheduled breaks. Every supervisor and worker should also be trained in how to know the signs of heat stress to know when they or another work colleague may be at risk.

Its also important to note that every worker’s susceptibility to heat stress is different. Some workers may suffer the heat more because they usually work interstate, are pregnant or are on certain medications. And workers who undertake manual work, work outside or in factories where they are further exposed to additional heat factors, are also likely to feel the heat more and have a higher risk of heat stress or illness. But while everyone is different, the systems of work should be the same to ensure all workers are safe.

Workers also have a common law and statutory right to cease work if they have a reasonable concern that if they carried out or continue to carry out work would place them at serious risk to their health and safety by being exposed to an immediate or imminent risk such as heat stress.

Health and safety reps also have rights to direct workers to cease work in the same circumstances or to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (a PIN) to the employer requiring them to produce a heat management work health and safety management plan to demonstrate they are complying with the law.

Contact Queensland Unions on 07 3010 2555 for further information.