Australia’s heatwave continues with record temperatures and sweltering conditions. As the mercury is set to soar past 40°C, the nation is on high alert. Emergency services are prepared for catastrophic fire conditions and the public has been urged to have bushfire survival plans ready. Soccer matches and cricket games have been postponed nationwide due to the scorching heat. Australia’s health services advised the public to stay hydrated and to pay special attention to children and the elderly, as the sizzling temperatures can take a toll on health and safety.
It’s no wonder that Safe Work Australia recently published comprehensive heat safety guidelines, titled “Managing the Risks of Working in Heat”. True to its purpose to improve work, health and safety across Australia, the Australian government agency explains in this guide the key procedures for staying safe when working in the heat. According to Safe Work Australia’s CEO Michelle Baxter heat is “a hazard in many Australian workplaces, whether work is performed indoors or outdoors.” ¹ With construction, manufacturing, warehousing, agriculture and mining counted among Australia’s top industries, the danger is real.
The document also is a powerful reminder that under current Australian law, all places of employment are responsible for the safety and well-being of their workers, as employers “have a duty to provide first aid equipment and facilities, and access to trained first aid officers, for sick or injured workers. Heat-related illness is progressive. If the worker is not treated or remains in a hot environment, it can be fatal.” ²
To effectively manage the dangerous heat safety risk, the Safe Work Australia guidelines endorse the following four steps:
- Step 1: Identify the heat safety hazard by considering air temperature and flow, humidity, radiant heat sources, work requirements, and the overall workplace itself.
- Step 2: Assess the heat safety risk to determine how severe it is, and whether existing control measures are effective. Decision-makers must decide what action to take to control the heat safety risk and how urgently to take that action.
- Step 3: Do everything reasonable to eliminate the heat safety risk associated with having people working in heat. This could include cancelling certain work tasks, rescheduling tasks, or procuring cooling technology to reduce the ambient temperature in key workplace areas.
- Step 4: Review heat control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
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