SafeWork Australia is reminding businesses of their obligations surrounding working in air pollution, as parts of Australia experience reduced outdoor air quality as a result of bushfire smoke and airborne dust.
The national regulator says workplaces must have measures in place to protect worker health and safety and manage the risks of working outdoors.
“Consider the geographic location of your workplace. If you are in close proximity to a dust storm or smoke from bushfires, check your local air quality index to obtain the latest health advice,” SWA said in a statement.
“States and territories have primary responsibility for monitoring and managing air quality in their jurisdictions. Contact your local environmental agency and WHS authority for specific guidance and suggested actions.”
Workers with air pollution sensitivity, particularly if combined with an underlying medical condition, are also being urged to advise their workplace and follow the advice of their GP or specialist physician.
Dust and smoke may:
- reduce air quality and impact visibility
- settle onto equipment and impact the functioning of plant and grip of surfaces, and
- irritate the airway, nose and eyes.
Workplaces must have measures in place to manage the risks to health and safety caused by working outdoors when air quality is reduced, including:
- working indoors (where possible)
- rescheduling outdoor work until conditions (e.g. visibility and air quality) improve
- ensuring plant is functioning correctly and has not been affected by dust or debris
- cleaning any dust and debris off outdoor surfaces, and
- providing personal protective equipment such as eye protection and correctly fitted, P2 rated face masks.
- Department of Health – Health alert: bushfires and smoke
- NSW Department of Health – Smoke advice
- NSW Department of Health – Dust storm advice
- ACT Health – Smoke advice
- QLD Government – Bushfires and dust storms
- Environment Protection Authority Victoria – Air pollution advice
- Tasmanian Government Department of Health – Bushfire smoke advice
- NT Department of Health – Smoky conditions: health alert