Members operating throughout most parts of Victoria are likely to experience ‘very poor’ or ‘hazardous’ air quality intermittently.
Master Builders Victoria recommends that, where possible strenuous work outdoors or work during which poor visibility may affect health and safety work be avoided, work outdoors in general be limited, and that persons in high-risk health categories (14 years old or younger, 60 years or over, pregnant women, those with heart conditions or respiratory conditions-- including asthmatics and those at risk of developing these conditions) work only in accordance with health management plans and/or the advice provided by their treating physicians.
For most of the population who are otherwise in good health, it is unlikely that the current climate conditions will adversely affect them. Most work indoors can continue as normal. Doors and windows should be closed, and air-conditioners set to recirculate indoor air rather than draw air from outside, which occurs in the normal reverse-cycle mode.
These conditions, generally, do not pose a health and safety threat provided the above guidelines are heeded.
Personal protective equipment, such a P2 dust masks, can be effective at mitigating the risks, – provided that an air-tight seal is created with the mask and that workers have received training in how to use such PPE appropriately.
Master Builders Victoria views air quality issues like these that affect the ability of employees to continue working are likely to fall within the scope of inclement weather. Appropriate inclement weather procedures should be followed as per the relevant industrial instrument.
Industrial relations information
Fire and smoke have the potential to affect construction sites or factories where employees would otherwise be working. In the event the area is affected by a fire such that it is unsafe to continue working, this would likely be considered a stand-down under the Fair Work Act. Employees may be able to access paid leave by agreement with their employer and would otherwise be stood down without pay whilst work is stopped.
Where sites are not directly affected by fire, but smoke has degraded air quality, employers should first determine whether or not work can proceed safely in accordance with the safety precautions mentioned above. If it is determined that it would be unreasonable for work to continue under the circumstances, the inclement weather provisions of the relevant industrial instrument would apply. Employers seeking assistance with inclement weather and payment arrangements should contact the Master Builders industrial relations department on (03) 9411 4555.
As always, in addition to the support that we can offer internally, members and their families can access confidential counselling and support from @Incolink by calling 1300 000 129.