Rockhampton QCU Secretary Craig Allen says workers should exercise their rights about working in heatwave conditions.
Rockhampton QCU Secretary Craig Allen says workers should exercise their rights about working in heatwave conditions. Chris Ison ROK120717crally3

Union boss fires up on worker safety in CQ heat

THE hot weather this week has brought about some questions about health and safety.

The two main questions are should children be going to school in the heat and should tradies, construction and other sort of outside, manual workers be working?

The first question about children going to school is a bit easier, schools now have air-conditioning, some maybe even better than their homes.

But the second question is a bit tricky.

As Central Queensland is in the midst of an extreme heatwave, it has been questioned whether outside workers should be outside, and if the answer is no - when should that come into place?

Temperatures have risen this week to above 40°C with some high humidity.

Rockhampton Queensland Council of Unions Secretary Craig Allen said while there are no strict regulations in place about stop work, there are other laws that are related to it.

"Employers have a responsibility under law to have safe systems in place for workers,” Mr Allen said.

"If employers haven't take this heatwave seriously and put in robust risk management processes and procedures to limit the exposure of the risks of heatstress or heatstroke then they should be a reported.

"I question if they should be an employer.”

The processes in how they handle heat conditions depends on the type of business, workload and employees.

"There's a range of variables that an employer should be looking at,” Mr Allen said.

"Every individual person is different in the make up, everyone is affected by heat differently, their body, their weight, their age.

"In some instances there should be more breaks, more facilities for workers to go and cool down.

"In some instances some workplaces should stop work, some workplaces may have that because they have robust processes, at this temp the workplace ceases.”

Mr Allen said employers should aware that productivity in 40 degree weather is not going to be the same if it was 25 degrees.

"And this is where employers not just have to take in the temp but they also have to take in the humidity,” he said.

"Some workplaces don't have anything in place and they should be investigated and have their business shutdown.”

He also said action should be taken before the worst was to happen, and a employee falls ill to heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

"The onus lies squarely on the employers,” Mr Allen said.

Mr Allen shared his strong opinion of the matter and said workers are not slaves.

"Workers have a legal right to come from work safely,” he said.

"It comes down to the risk management of the heatwave and how the employer handles it.”

The union representative said there are processes employees can go through if they are being forced to work in unsafe and risky heat conditions.

"Those employers should be reported to any union rep or their workplace health and safety,” Mr Allen said.

"They should be fined and taken by the bodies that have the ability to do that.

"Those workers are exercising their workplace rights.”

The only way to stamp out the issue is to bring it to the forefront.

"I strongly advise workers to contact their union,” he said.

"We will never fix up situation beings unsafely exposed in risks in workplaces unless workers speak up.”



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