When is it too hot to keep working?

Excessive heat is a serious health and safety hazard. Working in hot conditions can result in a number of adverse health effects - ranging from discomfort to serious illness and even death.

Unfortunately, in Victoria there are NO specific statutory or regulatory limits on the temperature to which workers can be exposed.

Under the ETU's Contracting Industry Agreement, extreme high temperature is defined as 35 degrees celsius. When the temperature is forecast to top 35 degrees, the bosses are required to consult with the union on ways to minimise heat risks and whether work can continue safely.

On very hot days affected by heat up to 35 degrees, employees must be relocated out of direct sunlight or into an air conditioned area. You must also be supplied with appropriate protective clothing, sunscreen, hats and cool drinks.

However, the rules vary from industry to industry and you should check your EBA or talk to your OHS Rep or Shop Steward for the specific provisions that apply to your workplace.

Healthy worker tips for hot weather

  • Drink 100-200ml of water at regular intervals, do not allow yourself to become thirsty.
  • Avoid drinking coffee, tea, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • Wear light-coloured, loose clothing made of natural fibres wherever possible.
  • Take regular breaks in a cool place.
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers.

Signs and symptoms of heat illness

  • Feeling sick, nauseous, dizzy or weak.
  • Clumsiness, collapse and convulsions.
  • Cramps and muscle spasms.
  • Hot, dry skin; rapidly rising body temperature.

Other hazards of hot weather

  • Loss of grip while handling tools, objects and controls due to sweaty hands.
  • Slips, trips and falls due to fainting or fatigue.
  • Errors/mistakes due to heat fatigue.
  • Not following safe work procedures or cutting corners due to fatigue and/or discomfort.
  • Not using PPE due to discomfort.
  • Burns from contact with hot surfaces or substances.

When you see a fellow worker suffering the effects of heat, get them to a cooler area immediately. If symptoms don't improve quickly with rest and cool drinks, or if the skin is very hot and dry to the touch, get medical attention urgently.