Work Health and Safety commissioner Jacqueline Agius.

WHILE Canberra has experienced heatwave conditions over the past few days, and with more hot days ahead, Work Health and Safety commissioner Jacqueline Agius is warning employers of the serious risks the heat has on employees. 

Hot weather is often overlooked or not prioritised as a workplace health and safety issue, according to Ms Agius who says that if the risks aren’t managed properly there’s the potential for serious injury to workers.

“The heat can be hazardous and cause harm to workers and that can range from heat stress or heat stroke, fainting, dizziness, dehydration and, in extreme conditions, even cancer or melanoma,” she says.

“Everyone deserves to work in a safe environment, and workers are encouraged to speak to their supervisor or health and safety representative if they have concerns about working in the heat.”

Businesses need to do what they can to protect employees, says Ms Agius. This might include installing fans or air conditioners, implementing regular breaks, or enforcing altered shifts for employees who predominately work outside (so they get a rest), she says. 

But, in addition to outdoor workers, Ms Agius says: “We also must consider indoor workers and indoor workers that are exposed to extreme heat are workers such as chefs working in kitchens, wait staff and educators who are at time working in classrooms that don’t have any sort of artificial cooling.”

Ms Agius says while most businesses in Canberra are reactive when it comes to the effect of heat on their employees, as the planet continues to heat up, due to climate change, businesses need to consider how they are going to respond to extreme weather conditions now and into the future.

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