The risks of working in extreme heat indoors – Important facts to know

The risks of working in extreme heat indoors – Important facts to know

Exposure to extreme heat is a hazard in many indoor Australian workplaces, which can result in severe health problems for workers.

Employers, businesses and other PCBUs have the primary duty of care to ensure the health and safety of workers – regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, casual, shift workers, labour-hire workers, contractors – or ‘others’ (eg. volunteers, visitors, etc) in the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable.

You must use the risk management framework to manage any workplace health and safety risks and consult with workers and/or their HSRs at every stage of the process. You must always try to eliminate all identified hazards and their associated risks – including working outdoors (exposed to UV radiation) and in extreme heat – so far as is reasonably practicable.

Working in extreme heat in buildings that are poorly designed and ventilated and/or without air-conditioning can expose workers to the risk of heat-related illness – particularly during hot weather and heatwaves.

Recent climate data shows that:

  • extreme heat events are occurring in Australia more often and for longer periods, which is expected to continue with greater intensity in the future, and
  • there are also increasing extremes of temperature, meaning Australia is experiencing weather with more heat extremes and fewer cool extremes.

This means that workers are now exposed to hotter working environments for longer periods and these more frequent, longer heatwaves may introduce new hazards as well as affect the control options available, eg. extreme heat conditions may not dissipate overnight from buildings during heat waves – especially if the building is poorly ventilated and/or insulated. Over successive hot days, hot air can build up in these workplaces and result in the indoor working conditions being more extreme earlier in the day than anticipated.

Heat-related illness describes a range of progressive heat-related conditions that happen when the body’s normal sweating response can’t cool the body down enough to maintain a healthy temperature.

The more extreme the heat and humidity, the higher the risk is of serious illness or injury – even death.

Note: This web page addresses extreme heat that poses a direct risk to a worker’s health and safety.

For information on thermal comfort – that is, whether a worker is comfortable at a particular indoor temperature – see our Maintaining thermal comfort in indoor work environments fact sheet.

Additional SWNSW resources on managing exposure to extreme heat are:

No results were found

Back to top