PCBUs overseeing outdoor working environments should ensure that outdoor work or field work is rescheduled until conditions (such as visibility and air quality) improve. If work must go ahead, PCBUs must monitor outdoor air quality levels via Air Quality Alerts NSW and carry out appropriate risk assessments prior to work commencing. Further health information on bushfire smoke can also be accessed via NSW Health. PCBUs must also provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, to workers with instructions on its correct use and fitting. Workers must always have an effective means of communication if working alone, remotely or in an isolated place. PCBUs must also remain aware of any bushfires near the proposed work area(s), advising workers to follow instructions and advice from emergency services, and evacuating the area if needed.
PCBUs must advise workers to seek medical advice from their doctor if they have concerns about their health. Workers experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should also be advised to seek urgent medical attention. PCBUs must ensure that workers stay hydrated and cool, particularly those who are sensitive to smoke and air pollution, as they can be more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.
Workers also have obligations under WHS legislation, and are encouraged to raise concerns about bushfire smoke with PCBUs or relevant WHS representatives as soon as possible. Workers not satisfied with the response should contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 or the Speak Up platform.