With summer underway in Australia, Safe Work Australia (SWA) has reminded work health and safety (WHS) duty holders to be aware of the hazards and risks that arise from working in heat and air pollution/bushfire smoke by publishing a suite of new resources that complement existing guidance and are designed to help WHS duty holders manage the risks to workers.
Working in heat and/or in air pollution can be hazardous and can cause harm to workers in indoor and outdoor work environments. Employers are urged to take precautions this summer and know the risks of working in heat and/or air pollution, to protect worker health and safety. SWA has revealed that there were 1774 workers compensation claims over the 10 years from 2009–10 to 2018–19, resulting from working in heat. 1679 of those claims were from working in the sun; of those, 940 claims were cancer-related, while 441 were claims regarding heat stroke or heat stress. There were also 95 claims from working in hot outdoor conditions.
SWA CEO Michelle Baxter encouraged employers to download the available resources, to ensure they understand the risks and take appropriate steps to keep workers and others at their workplace safe in heat and air pollution. “Under WHS laws, employers have a duty to identify hazards and assess and control WHS risks,” Baxter said. “High-risk workplaces include transport, postal and warehousing, construction, and public administration and safety industries, as well as labourers and protective service workers.”
Available resources include a checklist of the risks to consider when managing working in heat, exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation guidance and advice on providing first aid to someone experiencing a heat-related illness. Videos are also featured on the SWA website, including of an expert panel discussing key issues on heat and work injuries, and case studies that demonstrate how four organisations are managing the risks and hazards of illness and injury associated with working in heat. Resources to manage the risks associated with air pollution and bushfire smoke are also available, including a webpage about air quality when working near bushfires.
“New resources include an infographic on working safely when there is bushfire smoke, a fact sheet on managing risks from working in heat and frequently asked questions addressing common queries about working in heat. New guidance on managing the WHS risks from air pollution was also developed earlier in 2020,” Baxter said. “The new resources complement Safe Work Australia’s existing guidance, including the guide for managing the risks of working in heat, working in heat checklist, fact sheet on first aid for heat-related illness and guide on exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation.”
The suite of working in heat and air pollution/bushfire smoke resources is available here, via the SWA website.