Avoid heat stress in our sizzling summer

Published Wednesday, 07 December, 2022 at 02:31 PM

Minister for Education, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing
The Honourable Grace Grace

With temperatures peaking at more than 40 degrees in parts of Queensland this week, the Palaszczuk Government is reminding businesses to have plans in place to help keep workers safe.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said employers had an obligation to protect their workers from heat related illness under work health and safety laws.

“The sizzling Queensland summer is officially here, and the high temperatures in the last couple of days are a timely reminder to look out for your colleagues and staff in the heat,” Ms Grace said.

“Every single worker in Queensland has the right to go home to their loves ones at the end of the day, and employers have an obligation to keep them safe.

“Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have a brilliant, free, comprehensive guide about working in heat that I’d encourage everyone to have a look at.

“Working in the heat can not only be uncomfortable: it can be dangerous and even fatal.

“In 2020 a worker collapsed and died after picking fruit on a farm in high temperatures, and in 2021 a North Queensland worker died from multiple organ failure due to heat related illness.

“In both cases, the businesses involved were prosecuted and fined for failing to comply with health and safety duties.

“The solutions can be as simple as providing shade, avoiding outdoor work during the hottest part of the day, and ensuring inductions for new workers cover key safety measures.”

Minister Grace said it wasn’t just about temperature and humidity.

“There are a range of other risk factors which need to be taken into consideration to protect workers,” Ms Grace said.

“Obviously, exposure to direct and reflected sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day, is a major risk, but air movement and radiant heat from plant and equipment being used need to be considered.

“An individual’s risk factors need to be considered in conjunction with environmental factors and the nature of the work. The type of work, clothing, medications, hydration levels, fitness and medical conditions are all part of the consideration.

“Remember, conditions can change daily so regular risk assessments are vital.”

To assist businesses meet their obligations, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a Heat stress (basic) calculator and guidance on managing the risk of heat stress, including the Managing the work environment and facilities code of practice 2021.

Media contact: Kate Talbot, 0439 803 211