Roofers can work in dangerously hot conditions without any legislation to protect them
Roofers can work in dangerously hot conditions without any legislation to protect them Kevin Farmer

It ain't cool on the tools today

SPARE a thought for Gladstone's outdoor workers.

While indoor staff scramble to adjust their fans and air-conditioners, they're toiling away in the heat usually dressed from head to toe in full personal protective equipment.

Imagine welding, gardening, swinging a hammer, roofing or working in a steam-filled laundry all day in this heat.

It's not just uncomfortable, heat stress is potentially life threatening.

CFMEU: Heat Stress Kills
CFMEU: Heat Stress Kills CFMEU

Health and Safety Officer for the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Brian Devlin said Queensland had no legislation in place for working in hot occupations.

"In southern states the union has worked with employers to implement policies, which agree to maximum temperature and time limits per hour to be worked, and we're keen to start the conversation here in Queensland, Mr Devlin said.

"It's time we had a discussion with Queensland employers to work out what's best for them and their workers in hot environments.

"It will increase productivity, as their workforces won't be too tired or stressed at the end of an extremely hot and humid day."

Mr Devlin said to give workers a chance to cool down, anyone working in temperatures of 36 to 38 degrees should be rested in a cool place for 10 minutes every hour.

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From 38 to 40 degrees that should be 15 minutes and over 40 degrees they should be taking half hour breaks.

However, for small business owners and employees working in overly hot environments, things were not as simple.

According to one employee who did not want to be named, if he asked for an hourly break, he would be fired.

"It's hard enough putting up with the heat at home on your days off, but I spend all day on roofs where the sun is belting down from above and reflecting up at you from below," he said.

"If I asked for an hourly break I'd be fired.

"Last week a bloke on our team said it was too hot, and he was told to shut up and keep working.

"Plus there's a bit of a pride thing too, where you see how much you can take and still get the job done.

But sometimes it can really knock you around.

An electrician told The Observer that temperatures inside a roof space could reach 65 degrees.

"No matter how much water you drink, you still get a bit delirious," he said.

"You just go as quick as you can and get out, or lift roof sheets to increase air flow."

Major industries around Gladstone appear to be taking heat awareness very seriously.

Most have critical management strategies in place, such as risk assessing hot work, changing maintenance routines to cooler months, rotating crews on very hot jobs, providing cold water or additional PPE like ice-vests, or offering workers a cool place to recover.

Other steps include regular heat awareness and first-aid training courses and routine crew safety talks highlighting the signs and symptoms of heat stress where workers are encouraged to keep an eye on their workmates, particularly new team members who may not be acclimatised to Gladstone's high temperature and humidity.



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