What should we do if we are experiencing extreme temperatures in our workplace?
The AEU ACT policy on extreme temperatures states: The AEU believes that members have a right to decline to teach in situations where classroom temperatures are lower than 17 degrees Celsius or more than 30 degrees Celsius. The employer’s own position on temperatures agrees that temperatures in classrooms should not be outside of 17 to 30 degrees. Australian Standards For Offices Guidelines recommend the minimum temperature is 20 degrees and the maximum 26 degrees.
The Work Health and Safety Act provides that the employer is responsible for “the provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety” and requires that “that the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing illness or injury of workers arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking”.
The Act establishes a clear duty on the part of the employer to ensure that temperatures in schools are monitored and do not pose a risk to workers’ health and safety. There should be no adverse health effects from temperatures between 18-30 degrees for a worker of good health, though this may change if the worker suffers from a medical condition or if conditions are particularly hot and humid.
Whenever physical conditions become distressing to students and intolerable to staff:
- Advise the Workplace Health & Safety representative (aka Occupational Health & Safety representative);
- The Workplace Health & Safety representative should immediately consult with the principal/manager of the site and verify the actual temperature of the location.
- If a solution cannot be found that will protect the safety of staff and students, or the solutions available are likely to cause serious, regular and ongoing disruption to core business, the Workplace Health and Safety Representative should contact David Pitt, Manager, Health Safety and Wellbeing, on 6205 1427 to seek a health and safety risk assessment;
- AEU officers are ready and able to provide advice and support to help achieve a solution. Just call 6272 7900.
To be ready for extremely hot days, we encourage the following action:
- Have a thermometer in every classroom, gymnasium, hall, common area and office where extreme heat is likely to be a problem. If possible, place a temperature recording sheet next to the thermometer and log temperatures at set times throughout the day.
- Workplace Health & Safety representatives should meet with principals to develop or review contingency plans to manage work and students safely on days of extreme temperatures. The Education Directorate has provided an Expected High Temperature Schools Preparation Checklist to aid in developing a contingency plan.
Remember, the AEU's ACT Election campaign was successful in gaining a commitment for the ACT Government to invest $100 million in public school infrastructure over the next four years, with heating and cooling solutions an urgent priority. We will continue to exert pressure to ensure that the rollout of this funding begins soon.