As the weather finally starts to warm up and we crawl our way out of winter, we need to consider how the change in season may impact health and safety, and whether we need to make any changes or develop plans to reflect the new season.
Don’t forget that discussions and decision making about changes to safety practices must be done in consultation with the team! Now is a great time to talk about the information below, or any other relevant information with your own team, you could even make it a walk & talk WHS catch up, while the sun is shining.
Allergies and Respiratory Health
Spring in Australia is synonymous with pollen, and for individuals with allergies, it can be a challenging time. Workers suffering from pollen allergies may experience symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion. To create a safer workplace, employers can:
- Provide information and resources on managing allergies.
- Encourage workers to take necessary precautions, such as wearing masks or using air purifiers.
- Consider flexible work arrangements for workers with severe allergies.
Where employees need to bring medication to work to manage any allergies, employers must always ensure the worker has alerted them to the medication they are taking, especially if it may cause drowsiness or impact them in any way which could affect their safety or the safety of others at work.
Requesting the worker bring in a medical clearance or letter from their doctor detailing this information would be ideal.
With the arrival of spring, the sun becomes more intense. Prolonged exposure to harmful UVR (ultra violet radiation) rays can lead to skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. According to SafeWork Australia, UVR is the cause of about 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma in Australia. SafeWork Aus – Guide on exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR).
Employers should prioritise sun protection for outdoor workers by:
- Providing and encouraging the use of sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats.
- Scheduling outdoor tasks during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon.
- Ensuring workers have access to shaded areas for breaks.
Hazardous Flora and Fauna
Australia is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, some of which can pose risks to workers. In spring, encounters with snakes, spiders, and poisonous plants become more common. Employers can mitigate these risks by:
- Completing or reviewing any existing risk assessments which identify the hazards associated with flora and fauna at the workplace, or for certain tasks.
- Providing a Safe Work Procedure and training on identifying and responding to local wildlife hazards.
- Clearing work areas of potential hiding spots for snakes and spiders.
- Encouraging workers to wear appropriate protective clothing when working in areas prone to hazards, including long pants and long sleeves, enclosed non-slip sturdy boots or shoes, and gloves as required.
Seasonal Allergens and Insect Bites
Apart from pollen allergies, spring can bring about allergies to seasonal allergens like grass or mould. Additionally, insect bites from mosquitoes or ticks can become a concern. Employers can address these issues by:
- Educating workers about the risks of insect bites and how to prevent them.
- Providing insect repellents and first-aid supplies.
- Regularly inspecting and maintaining work areas to minimise mould or infestation.
Outdoor Worksite Safety
Spring often sees an increase in construction and landscaping projects. It’s essential to maintain safe worksites by:
- Conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing safety measures accordingly.
- Ensuring all workers are trained in using appropriate safety equipment and following safety protocols.
- Regularly inspecting and maintaining tools and equipment to prevent accidents.
- Ensuring contractors undertake a safety induction, have appropriate licences and insurances, provide any SWMSs as required and undertake work in accordance with their own safety protocols and those of the workplace.
Mental Health Considerations
While spring can bring joy to many, it can also exacerbate mental health issues like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or anxiety in some individuals. Employers can promote mental well-being by:
- Encouraging open communication about mental health issues.
- Offering Worker Assistance Programs (EAPs) or counselling services.
- Providing flexible work arrangements or time off when needed.
Spring Cleaning and Ergonomics
Spring often inspires people to engage in deep cleaning and decluttering at home. This can also extend to the workplace. Employers should consider:
- Educating workers on proper lifting techniques and ergonomics to prevent injuries while cleaning or rearranging.
- Encouraging breaks and stretching exercises to combat prolonged periods of cleaning or organising.
- Providing ergonomic tools and equipment to support safe work practices.
Compliance with Regulations
To ensure a safe spring season in the workplace, employers must adhere to relevant work health and safety regulations. Regular compliance checks, training, and updates are essential to avoid legal and financial consequences.
Changing from Dry to Wet Season
In the northern/tropical parts of Australia, there are generally two seasons – wet and dry. The dry season runs from around May to September, with the wet season being from October to April. The wet season can bring monsoonal rain, very hot days, high humidity, and possibly cyclones.
For workplaces in these areas, it is important to discuss the change in season with the team and any stakeholders and develop plans for preparing for the change in weather. A risk assessment should be completed for the site/worker roles each season, to identify any new hazards or changes to existing risks and their controls.
Employers should review their Emergency Plan and Emergency Procedures to ensure they are appropriate and ensure all workers have been trained in emergency procedures relevant to their workplace & role.
Spring in Australia is a time of rejuvenation, but it also brings specific work health and safety considerations. Employers and workers must work together to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.
A proactive approach to work health and safety at the start of the spring season is an investment in the long-term success of your organisation and the well-being of your workers.
If you would like any support in relation to your work health and safety strategy, please contact Evolve Safety.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, workplace safety, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.