As the Australian Defence Force investigates whether it is responsible for starting the bush fire near Lithgow – and the subsequent lose of homes, livestock and bushland – summer is an important time to stop and think about the impact of heat in the workplace.

Regardless of your area of business, now is the time to review your plans and assess whether or not your workers will be safe, your work impacts upon anyone else, and adequate controls are in place.

Here are a few questions to consider:

Do you work outdoors?

If your work includes being outside for any or all of the day, you need to consider the controls that are in place. Workers ought to be provided with the following controls: water, sunscreen, clothes that protect against UV, a hat, and shade. Ensure you have allocated regular breaks for heat recovery and check all workers are using the controls provided.

Do you have any smokers in your work place?

Ask yourself, will it be their butt or yours? You may allow smokers to smoke in your workplace but they may be creating a risk to your business. The worker flicking glowing cigarette butt from the window of the branded work vehicle could have huge ramifications – but you could be the one taking ultimate responsibility.

A few questions to ask:

  • Where do your workers routinely smoke?
  • Do they routinely flick lit butts out of company vehicles and is your company logo on the side?
  • Is it adjacent to car park?
  • What would happen if a key client/customer saw this?
  • Can your smokers accidentally ignite a garden or grassed area adjacent to the car park?

Smokers are being investigated in the recent fire at Homebush Bay car park where there was an estimated million dollars in loss and damage to vehicles and property.

Check if your insurance policies cover third party property damage via negligence but also remind everyone about their responsibility to extinguish all cigarettes, and be sure to provide adequate receptacles for butt collection.

Do you work with ignition sources?

Regardless of whether you’re doing a quick spot weld for emergency maintenance or need to weld all day long, if your work can create a spark you need to ask yourself:

  • How quickly could that get out of control?
  • What are the adjacent surrounds can they burn?
  • How quickly will they burn?
  • Do I have you adequate fire suppression to contain a fire?
  • How far away is the fire brigade?
  • How strong is the wind?
  • Can I reschedule this work for another day?

Small things can have massive consequences – and you need to question if your business is structured to survive a crisis.

Review your current safety systems. Reassess your controls and make changes where required, ensuring your workers are aware of these and keeping a copy of all communication for your records. Then get back to work, before it gets too hot!