Employers have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to ensure your health and safety is protected.
Read the WHS Fact Sheet on Bush fire Smoke
All workers have the right to healthy and safe work in a healthy and safe workplace.
The bushfire smoke poses a threat to human health, there is no safe level of exposure.
The best way to stay healthy & safe is to not be exposed in the first place to hazardous levels of smoky air.
You have the right to:
- refuse to do tasks which are unsafe or in an unsafe environment. (Your employer can direct you to do alternative duties.)
- stop work immediately if you feel sick or suffer symptoms.
- be provided with alternative duties or an alternative place of work (if possible), if you cannot perform your normal duties due to the smoke.
- go home if conditions at work cannot be made safe (your employer should do the right thing and make sure you are not financially disadvantaged).
- raise issues and concerns about health and safety with your Health and Safety Representative (if you have one), your union, or your supervisor.
If outdoor work is essential) you must be provided with personal protective equipment by your employer, and trained in its proper use. Note: merely providing P2 masks is not sufficient. They must be properly fitted, and you must be trained in their use. Only use protective equipment that you have been properly trained for.
If you have been required to work while exposed to the smoke, even if you do not feel sick, complete a WHS incident report, and contact Worksafe. Remember: it is illegal for your employer to force you to work in the smoke.
Your employer should:
- conduct a work health and safety risk assessment, in consultation with you and your co-workers. Contact the Young Workers Centre or Worksafe for more info.
- monitor air quality via the hourly air quality index updates issued by ACT Health. Search for “ACT Air Quality Index”.
- immediately make changes necessary to protect health of all workers. This could involve changing, moving or stopping work, providing air purifiers, or allowing you to work from home or a safer location.
- make sure any health and safety incidents (including people being made sick or having symptoms from bushfire smoke in the workplace) are recorded and reported. Contact the Young Workers Centre for information about incident reports.
Tips for talking to your employer:
- talk to your co-workers first and ask someone to come with you to raise these issues with your supervisor/manager.
- tell your supervisor/manager about your concerns, give them a copy of this fact sheet and ask them to take the appropriate actions.
- remember, it’s not just about whether workers are affected now: it’s about prevention.
- ask them to advise all workers, in writing, of the steps they are taking to protect your health and safety.
What else can you do?
- Give this fact sheet to your co workers, supervisors and managers – so everyone knows their rights.
- Have a meeting with your co-workers about your health and safety at work. If you need more info or advice about your health and safety rights, get in touch with the Young Workers Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 6225 8104.
For urgent work health and safety issues, contact WorkSafe ACT: 02 6207 3000.