Hot Weather Policies – How Hot is Too Hot?

Section 40 of the South Australian Work Health and Safety Regulations requires all employers (referred to as Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking or PCBUs for short) to ensure that workers who carry out work in extremes of heat or cold are able to carry on their work without risk to their health and safety. The issue of thermal comfort is also addressed in the Managing the Work Environment and Facilities Code of Practice.

Neither the regulations or the Code of Practice provide a definition of ‘too hot’ because of the variables involved and the fact that what one person considers too hot to work may differ from another person.

Instead employers (PCBUs) are required to take a risk management approach to thermal comfort and need to take into account issues such as:

  • air temperature

  • air movement

  • floor temperature

  • radiant heat from surroundings

  • humidity

  • clothing

  • physical requirements of the task/s

  • available shade, or lack of shade

Employers need to consider how they can manage the issue of heat at their workplace. Strategies for reducing heat or reducing exposure to heat may include:

  • Air conditioners

  • Fans

  • Allowance of lighter weight clothing, if such does not increase risk of injury from other hazards

  • Reducing the physical requirements of the task/s

  • Increase shaded areas, or bring work inside if possible

  • Use of mechanical aids

  • Modifying equipment or environment to remove heat generation

If these strategies are not practical, a Working in Heat/Hot Work Policy may be implemented that allows for other strategies such as:

  • Changing work start/finish times to allow most strenuous work to be carried out earlier or later in the day when it is cooler

  • Allow a slower work pace

  • Provide cool drinking water

  • Provide breaks in the heat of the day

  • Job rotation

  • Provision of drinks containing electrolytes

Some unions encourage their members to slow or cease work when forecast temperatures reach a certain point (on average 37C). Industrial agreements and awards may also discuss entitlement to slow or cease work during inclement weather. We recommend all employers (PCBUs) consult all relevant information sources prior to making decisions about working in heat.

It is imperative that employers (PCBUs) consult with their workforce when determining if a Working in Heat/Hot Work Policy is to be implemented and what its content may be. At all times remember that the objective of such a policy is to remove or reduce the likelihood of a worker developing heat stress or exhaustion. If any worker experiences dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, breathlessness, clammy skin or difficulty remaining alert, immediate medical attention should be sought.

Moore McPhee WHS Consultants specialise in the needs of small and medium businesses. We are here to help and can provide cost effective solutions for your business. Contact us on 1300 362 351, or speak directly to our Senior Principal Consultant Vanessa Moore on 0401 382 083 or at [email protected] for a confidential discussion about your particular work health and safety needs.

Disclaimer: Any advice and information in this article is general in nature, does not take into account particular circumstances and should not be construed as professional advice. Unless specifically stated otherwise, the information in this article is prepared for South Australian Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking as defined in the SA Work Health and Safety Act 2012 only. The information may be applicable to other states of Australia that have adopted the harmonised work health and safety legislation but is not guaranteed.

 

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