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Outdoor workers should be mindful of heatwave

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Media Release

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Queenslanders who work outside have been urged to protect themselves against the heatwave expected to hit the State, with a workers’ compensation law firm and construction union raising awareness that extensive exposure to the sun and heat could lead to injuries.

Slater and Gordon is acting for several Queensland workers who sustained some type of injury because they were not protected from the sun. While rare, some of the most serious cases have lead to permanent brain damage and organ failure.

Slater and Gordon practice group leader, Karen Simpson, said with temperatures set to rise, employers and workers need to know the importance of ensuring adequate sun and heat protection.

“The risk of prolonged exposure to the sun is more than just sunburn and a headache,” Ms Simpson said.

“While it is rare, extreme heat conditions can sometimes lead to serious injuries.

“Employers have a duty of care to protect their workers and to raise awareness to ensure they wear a hat and drink plenty of water when working outdoors. 

Ms Simpson said she was currently acting for a young labourer who suffered heat stroke while working on a site in north Queensland in 40 degree heat.

It is argued that the employer was negligent as it had not ensured the worker accessed water or wore a hat despite labouring in extreme heat.

“The effects of the sun caused my client to suffer a brain injury and multiple organ failure,” she said.

“He is now dependent on family members for extensive care, requires a wheelchair and ongoing medical treatment, and can no longer work.

“People don’t usually realise what effects extreme heat can have on our bodies. It’s a sad case when something so preventable causes a family such heartache.

“These incidents should prompt employers to review their policy for workers who are employed outside as well as educate them on working in these conditions. We need to protect our workers and ensure they remain in a safe environment,” she said.

Builders Labourers Federation Union secretary David Hanna said the BLF has worked hard to promote the dangers of working in extreme heat.

“We ensure our safety representatives on all construction sites have attended training sessions to ensure the union’s heat stress policy is implemented in the event of extreme heat,” Mr Hanna said.

“If workers don’t have access to water and regular breaks or are worried about working in extreme heat, they should contact the BLF immediately,” he said.