Working in Heat

December 21, 2023 Member News

By Justin Power,

State Secretary

During the summer months, many SDA members may be faced with working in very hot conditions which can be a serious health and safety issue.

Factors such as the type of work being undertaken, humidity, air temperature, sun penetration, clothing and air movement should always be taken into account when considering the health and safety risks associated with heat.
Heat and uncomfortable temperatures can affect people differently. Working in hot conditions may result in health concerns, ranging from mild discomfort and headaches to life-threatening issues.

These more serious health conditions can generally be grouped together as the effects of heat stress, for example:

  • reduced ability to concentrate and therefore an increased risk of accidents;
  • increased discomfort in the use of protective clothing and equipment.
  • aggravation of the effects of other hazards, e.g., noise
  • aggravation of pre-existing illnesses
  • heat cramps (muscle spasms)
  • heat exhaustion characterised by weakness and fatigue, vomiting, headaches, unconsciousness and in some cases, death.

Your employer has a duty of care to provide you with a workplace that is safe and healthy, particularly in extreme conditions. This extends to ensuring that heat risks are identified, assessed and controlled within the workplace when environmental conditions affect the health and safety of employees.

Your employer must ensure that:

  • adequate ventilation and air movement is provided in indoor environments that may become hot; and
  • appropriate work and rest regimes relative to the physical fitness, general health, medication taken and body weight of each employee exposed to the heat are implemented.

Issues relating to heat in the workplace, particularly over the summer months, must be addressed immediately and resolved effectively.

If you find yourself working in an uncomfortably hot situation, follow the grievance procedure contained in your Enterprise Agreement or Award and contact the SDA for assistance.