Plan ahead to stay safe at work amid intense weather

Employers are urged to plan ahead to keep workers safe as severe weather hits Victoria – including heatwave conditions, potentially damaging wind gusts and extreme fire danger.


High temperatures are forecast across much of the state today and are expected to peak in the mid-40s in parts of Victoria's north-west, while a severe heatwave warning is in place for the north-east.

An extreme fire danger rating is in place for the Mallee and Wimmera districts, including a total fire ban.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a Severe Weather Warning for Central, East Gippsland, South West, North Central, North East, West and South Gippsland and Wimmera Forecast Districts. 

Showers and thunderstorms are forecast to continue across the weekend, with more extreme conditions and high temperatures expected again for larger parts of the state next week.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers need to ensure tasks are carried out safely and that they make accommodations and prepare for extreme conditions.

"In extreme heat it's crucial that employers take all possible steps to reduce the risk of dehydration and heat illnesses such as heat rash, fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life-threatening," she said.

"Where there is high risk of fire, employers must also ensure they are not carrying out any work activities that may provide an ignition source, such as welding or other hot works."

Employers should consult with their workers and HSRs, prepare a tailored strategy for their individual circumstances and ensure workers are educated on how to recognise heat-related illnesses in themselves and others.

"If outside, reschedule strenuous work for a cooler part of the day, and ensure that workers have access to plenty of cold water and a cool place to take a break," Dr Beer said.

"It's also important to take precautions for indoor workers, especially in spaces without air conditioning or ventilation – particularly where heat can be retained indoors for longer and exceed outdoor temperatures."

With damaging wind gusts of up to 100km/h possible in elevated parts of central Victoria, Dr Beer urged employers to ensure sites and materials were secure.

"Partially-built structures must be well supported to withstand strong winds, and loose tools and materials stored away or tied down to prevent them from being blown around," Dr Beer said.

"Things like temporary fencing, roof sheets, tools and debris can easily become a danger to workers and the public in high winds."  

To stay up-to-date with the latest information use the VicEmergency App or website. 

Some symptoms of heat-related illness:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling weak
  • Pale skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headaches
  • Convulsions
  • Clumsiness

Ways to help manage heat risks:

  • Reschedule work so physically demanding jobs are performed during the cooler part of the day.
  • Work from a cooler location.
  • Wear light clothing that still provides adequate protection.
  • Provide extra rest breaks in a cool area.
  • Ensure workers have access to cool water and are staying hydrated.
  • Use mechanical aids to reduce physical exertion.

Tips for windy conditions:

  • Keep the worksite clean, securing objects that could become airborne.
  • Examine and strengthen structures to ensure they will remain standing during strong winds.
  • Secure scaffolding and other temporary structures so they can’t be blown over.
  • Where possible, re-schedule work until conditions improve (e.g. cease crane operations until wind speeds turn to acceptable levels).
  • Where work proceeds, wear eye protection to stop dust and debris from blowing into the eyes.
  • Wear fall protection and secure ladders at the top and bottom.
  • Be careful when handling large flat items, such as signs, as they can act as a sail.