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Call for hot-weather rule change as teen fights for life

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Hot weather rules for commercial construction must be also applied to domestic builders, the CFMEU says, as an apprentice fights for life after collapsing in this week’s searing weather.

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Travis Mellor, 17, remains in a coma at Royal Adelaide Hospital after collapsing at a suburban domestic building site in 41 degrees on Wednesday.

SafeWork SA is investigating the incident.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union SA state secretary Aaron Cartledge told InDaily union officials would meet with SafeWork SA to discuss how domestic builders could be included under state guidelines to ensure all workers were protected from extreme heat conditions.

“The industrial agreement doesn’t apply to domestic workers and they’re really left up to their own devices,” Cartledge said.

“In a lot of ways you’re just left to fend for yourself.”

Cartledge said Mellor, whose grandfather is understood to have been killed on a workplace accident in South Australia before he was born, was not alone in suffering from heat stress on building sites, with new apprentices to senior builders enduring extreme heat this week.

“We get a lot of phone calls from distressed parent who say their son’s throwing up with heatstroke.

“The young apprentice keeps working out of fear he might lose his job if he stops but they don’t even have to be young.

“Older workers who have not had a job for a long time are vulnerable and are not going to stop.”

Industrial guidelines stipulate that work must stop when the temperature reaches 37 degrees Celsius, or 35 degrees in the sun, and when no air-condition in available.

“With the weather bureau, they’re pretty accurate nowadays, you can plan. There’s really no excuse to see a worker out there,” Cartledge said.

A SafeWork SA spokeswoman told InDaily it was investigating the incident for any breaches to the state’s health and safety laws.

“We can confirm that notices have been issued, and as this is an ongoing investigation no further detail can be released at this time,” she said.

“Prohibition notices were issued yesterday, with further assessment on whether any improvement notices will be issued.”

A prohibition notice prohibits an employer carrying out activity until the inspector is satisfied that the risk has been remedied.

Under South Australia’s work health and safety legislation Division 2, General Working Conditions, a business must make sure their workers are not at any risk of extreme heat or cold.

The maximum penalty for an individual is $6000 and $30,000 for a body corporate.

Work health and safety laws specify that work conditions must be free of risks.

Heat stress does not only occur outside, but can also be experienced working in hot, cramped areas that have inadequate ventilation.

Heat illness, or heat stroke, occurs when the body cannot sufficiently cool itself and you absorb more heat from your environment than you can get rid of through perspiration or other forms of cooling.

Inability to perspire can be caused by the amount of air movement, clothing, humidity, physical activity, surrounding radiant temperature and general temperature.

Signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing heat illness include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, cramps and heavy sweating.

Cartledge appealed to all site manager to provide their workers with shade, cool drinks and allow them to leave the site when temperatures became too hot.

“If someone puts their hand up and says ‘I need to go home’ – let them and make sure they’re not persecuted for it.”

 

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