The Victorian WorkCover Authority has warned businesses in the Latrobe Valley to be aware of the impact of the recent bushfires and coal fire smoke on the air quality and to protect workers due to bad air quality in the area.
Employers are being warned to take cognisance of the situation and take the advice of the Department of Health into consideration especially in relation to people doing strenuous activity outdoors and those with pre-existing health conditions that may be affected adversely by the bad air quality.
An article on SafetyCulture.com.au quoted a VWA spokesman, Len Neist who advised people to consider the advice from authorities, especially pertaining to those people with pre-existing heart and lung conditions,
“The EPA and the Department of Health are providing updates for the entire Latrobe Valley community and there are daily community meetings, so employers can keep abreast of any developments that might affect their staff,” said Mr Neist.
“Workplaces operating near the Hazelwood coal mine fire should be particularly alert to variable air quality and monitor the EPA and Department of Health websites for updated information.
WorkCover Victoria has requested that employers review their current work design and implement the necessary changes to ensure that workers are exposed to smoke and smog while on the job.
Those workers who are affected by smoke and bad air quality should be reassigned and the work processes re-assessed.
Especially within the construction industry, where working outdoors takes up a predominant amount of time, keeping track of the air quality and its effect on workers is vital. Neist warns that communication is key in order to address health and safety issues surrounding air quality.
Len Neist went on to warn businesses of the following:
“The smoke haze is also affecting visibility in some areas, which may pose risks to staff operating machinery and equipment. If conditions make it difficult to see the workspace and other surroundings, work should be postponed.
“Overall, ongoing communication is key. Have a conversation in your workplace about the conditions and encourage staff to speak up if they identify any risks to health and safety.”
According to WorkCover, those with health concerns should seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24.
In addition to this warning to keep outdoor workers safe, a high level smoke alert has been issued for Morwell South and Morwell East in the Latrobe Valley on Friday.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a high level alert after it rose above 1,300 on Friday afternoon – any reading above 150 is considered high.
Smoke from the nearby Hazelwood mine fire has been blowing across the town over the past two weeks which led authorities to issue a warning that visibility is low and people should stay indoors.
For more about this alert go to http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-21/air-quality-has-deteriorated-dramatically-at-morwell-in-the-lat/5276072