The Australian Council of Trade Unions will today release new guidelines to address unprecedented threats to workplace safety due to the extreme heat and pollution due to the current bushfire crisis.
The guidelines will include ways workplaces can work to minimise exposure to heat and pollution and the correct procedures for recognising and treating health risks.
Secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus has explained that occupational health and safety regulations needed to be updated in light of the unparalleled risks due to climate change and global warming.
“Action is needed now to make sure that our workplace health and safety regulations are fit for purpose in a changing Australian climate,” she said.
“Global warming will mean hotter temperatures as well as more bushfires. This is already affecting working people, especially those who work outside.
“The levels of smoke we have seen on the east coast in recent weeks has been more than 10 times the hazardous level, but we have seen reports of workers being ordered to keep working. This is completely unacceptable.”
The new advice has been distributed by the ACTU to all Australian unions, trade and labour councils and covers heat and smoke exposure.
“The advice includes taking 10-minute hourly breaks in temperatures of 30 to 32 degrees and up to 45 minutes in temperatures above 42 degrees. Advice on unsafe air quality, associated health risks and the need to work inside at times of high exposure are also outlined.”
CFMMEU EBAs, common across worksites in NSW, state that workers will stop work and leave the site when the temperature reaches 35 degrees, and unions are encouraging workers to be mindful of the heat and the associated risks to safety as NSW braces for hot conditions.