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extreme weather

Extreme weather – your rights

Much of the country is experiencing heatwave-like conditions which are expected to continue throughout the summer – with some of the country expected to experience soaring temperatures.

Under Work Health and Safety legislation, every employer has a duty of care to “ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace.” Equally, workers have the right to take reasonable steps to remove themselves from unsafe work environments.

This includes ensuring that workers are not exposed to hazardous temperatures.

Hot temperatures cause discomfort and hazards such as:

  • reduced concentration (and increased likelihood of accidents)
  • increased discomfort in use of protective clothing and equipment
  • aggravation of effects of other hazards, e.g. noise
  • aggravation of pre-existing illnesses
  • heat stress, exhaustion and fainting.


When working in the heat, indoors and outdoors, take additional breaks to re-hydrate and to recover in cool, shaded areas.

If you are experiencing discomfort whilst working indoors, notify your manager, complete an incident report identifying the extreme heat as the safety hazard and go home.

If you are experiencing discomfort whilst working outdoors:

  1. Return to your workplace;
  2. Notify your manager and complete an incident report identifying the extreme heat as the safety hazard;
  3. Make yourself available for alternative duties that do not expose you to the extreme heat. Alternative duties should be reasonable – this does not mean mopping the floors or cleaning toilets.
  4. If no such reasonable alternative duties are made available to you, go home.


It is unlawful for an employer to withhold wages from workers exercising their rights to remove themselves from unsafe work environments. Members who follow the above advice and act reasonably will not have their pay withheld – your Union will ensure this. 

Any member who is threatened in relation to their pay, discouraged from completing an incident report or coerced to continue working in unsafe environments should contact their State Branch for assistance.

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