With summer approaching, the safety regulators are reminding employers to be aware of the risks faced by workers, particularly those in bushfire-prone zones, such as extreme heat, sun exposure, bushfires and smoke.
In the case of extreme heat, all businesses need to be conscious of the fact that the risks of dehydration and fatigue not only affect those who work long periods in direct sun, but also people working indoors or in confined spaces during heatwave periods.
What action should you take?
When determining areas in which your business might be exposed, it is important to consider a broad range of work environments, including workers operating machinery or vehicles without limited ventilation or air-conditioning. Further, if workers are travelling for significant periods of time or working for long durations in vehicles, they can also be exposed to the risk of fatigue and heat stroke.
Some of the areas where safety regulators recommend employers focus are the following:
- to reduce physical activity in the heat, look to use mechanical aids to reduce exertion;
- supervise your workers to detect the signs of fatigue and heat stroke;
- provide workers with suitable hats, clothing and summer protection;
- ensure there is adequate water available to keep workers hydrated;
- plan the day to prioritise strenuous work during the cooler periods of the day and less strenuous tasks in the warmer periods;
- ensure there are additional rest breaks during the day particularly in a cool or shaded area;
- encourage workers to take more breaks; and
- make sure your workers are fully informed about the risks of working in the heat, including identifying the signs of fatigue and heatstroke.
The risk of UV exposure presents its own challenges, as it may still pose a significant risk even on cooler days. It is important for your organisation to:
- risk assess the potential for workers to be exposed to UV rays;
- introduce a policy to deal with the control of exposure to UV rays;
- ensure there is appropriate sun safe training put in place for staff; and
- makes sure the steps put in place to control the risk of UV exposure are reviewed and monitored on a regular basis to ensure they are being implemented effectively.
TIP: SafeWork NSW has released a four-step guide to help workers stay comfortable and safe from the effects of extreme heat, sun exposure, bushfires and smoke. The guide includes a practical template tool that will assist you in putting appropriate risk controls in place.