Staying safe this summer
Summer is just around the corner but the heat has already shown itself across the nation. The hotter months bring with them work health and safety risks that you need to manage, such as bushfires, extreme heat and solar UVR.
With bushfire season well underway, it is important to ensure your organisation has reviewed its approach to the management of the risks faced by workers in bushfire-prone zones.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that the workplace has prepared and trained its workers in the procedures in the event of a bushfire emergency.
Your preparations must include ensuring that any worker who is working remotely or in an isolated place can access help in a bushfire emergency. For these individuals, it is critical that they have a means of communication like a mobile or satellite phone.
It is also important to ensure that work processes do not increase the risk of starting or intensifying bushfires. Some steps to take include:
- if flammable chemicals and liquids are being used or transported, they must be stored in well maintained containers and safe procedures must be used to decant the liquids; and
- ignition sources must be eliminated, including when disposing of items such as cigarette butts.
With predictions for an extreme summer, PCBUs need to address the risks of dehydration and fatigue – not only for those who work long periods in direct sun – but also people working indoors or in confined spaces during heatwave periods. A broad range of work environments might also be impacted by heat, including workers operating machinery or vehicles with limited ventilation or no air-conditioning. Long haul travel or working for long durations in vehicles can also lead 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 sun 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 presents its own challenges as it may still pose a significant risk even on cooler days. It is important for your organisation to make sure it:
- risk assesses the potential for workers to be exposed to UV rays;
- introduces a policy to deal with the control of exposure to UV rays;
- makes sure 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 that they are being implemented effectively.
SafeWork NSW has a handy tool to help manage the risks in summer. The tool, SeasonalSAFE, is a 4-step guide that addresses bushfires, extreme heat, sun exposure and smoke.
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