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WHS Risks – Working in Extreme Heat


The ACT has recently experienced extremely hot conditions and members are reminded that a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has a primary duty of care to ensure a safe work environment and the health of their employees, this includes working in heat.

Working in heat can be a hazard that results in severe health problems to employees, whether the work takes place indoors or outdoors.

When working in heat an employee may suffer from heat-related illness such as dehydration, fainting and heatstroke. Some signs that an employee may be suffering from a heat-related illness is:

  • feeling hot, weak and fatigued
  • clammy skin
  • headache
  • loss of concentration, poor judgement, irritability
  • confusion
  • clumsiness, slower reaction times
  • slurred speech
  • intense thirst
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid breathing and shortness of breath
  • fast, weak pulse rate; palpitations
  • tingling, numbness of fingers and/or toes
  • visual disturbance
  • dizziness, fainting (particularly when standing)
  • seizures and unconsciousness

PCBU’s should have a work health and safety management system in place that includes how they identify and manage extreme weather conditions in the workplace. The ACT Government has also issued a severe weather warning for the week, you can find more information here.

To develop a work health and safety management system, PCBUs should make use of the 4-step risk assessment process, which is:

  1. Identify hazards – find out what could cause harm.
  2. Assess risks – understand the nature of the harm the hazard could cause, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. This step may not be necessary if the risks and controls are known.
  3. Control risks – implement the most effective control measures by using the hierarchy of controls.
  4. Review – regularly review control measures to ensure they are working effectively and make changes as required.

If you have any questions in relation to your work health and safety obligations, please reach out to our Workplace Relations and Legal team on (02) 6175 5900.