Rising temperatures in Southern Australia have prompted the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union to remind its members that employers are obliged to provide safe working environment with adequate protection from the heat.
To that end, the Union’s Victorian branch has issued a HEAT BULLETIN stressing the need for workplaces to be sufficiently supplied with cool drinks, proper ventilation systems, an air-conditioned first aid room and regular work breaks.
According to the media release by AMWU, the Union’s Victorian branch Health and Safety Officer Frank Fairley said rising temperatures significantly increase the chances of accidents on the work place due to wavering concentration and discomfort from wearing safety equipment among workers.
Victorian OH&S law does not include high temperatures but does dictate that workers must not be exposed to dangers and that atmospheric quality must be maintained.
“Heat policy should have already been negotiated in Health Agreements but even at workplaces without these there are basic guidelines to ensure no one suffers from dehydration or life-threatening heat stroke,” said Mr Fairley.
Mr Fairley further added that employers should have undertaken a risk assessment in each area where members work.
Victorian branch guidelines specify that workers should take 10-minute hourly breaks when temperatures range from 30-32 degrees Celsius, 15-minute hourly breaks when temperatures range from 32-35 degrees Celsius and 30-minute hourly breaks when the temperature hits the 38 degrees Celsius mark.
According to these guidelines, work should stop altogether if the temperature goes above 38 degrees Celsius and all workers should rest until the temperature drops.
“These are guidelines and in some cases employees may demand the right to cease work before temperatures hit 38 C degrees or the old 100 Fahrenheit,” Mr Fairley said.
“Employers could also look to moderate heat by installing extra insulation around heat sources, closing down some machines or doing the harder physical work in the cooler part of the day. It is up to OH&S delegates to keep a close eye on conditions as the temperatures climb towards 40 degrees this week and if any member feels concerned over the heat they should immediately see their delegate.”