Proposed new state government building industry regulations could mean that tradespeople stop work when the temperature reaches 28 degrees, or the humidity reaches 75 per cent, making outdoor work in Far North Queensland unachievable. Apprentice carpenter Harley Hiles and his site supervisor Josh Hiles already use a range of measures to keep cool. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Proposed new state government building industry regulations could mean that tradespeople stop work when the temperature reaches 28 degrees, or the humidity reaches 75 per cent, making outdoor work in Far North Queensland unachievable. Apprentice carpenter Harley Hiles and his site supervisor Josh Hiles already use a range of measures to keep cool. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

New heat rule could ruin industry

A CAIRNS building boss fears proposed "minimum conditions" forcing construction workers to down tools when the mercury hits 28C would cripple the industry in a city used to tropical heat.

The new regulations, including the stop of work when humidity reaches 75 per cent, would mean workers in the tropics could spend three quarters of the year off the job.

The $176 million Cairns Convention Centre upgrade is expected to provide a trial of the new workplace regulations ahead of a wider roll out.

Apprentice carpenter Harley Hiles. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Apprentice carpenter Harley Hiles. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

MiHaven construction director James Mort said it was not workable in the Far North.

"If you look at the climate of Cairns there's only three months of the year where the maximum is under 28C," he said.

"In Cairns the building industry has been in complete decline and distress for a number of years … and this would just kill it off.

"Any impost such as this on the industry would completely kill it."

A Master Builders Queensland spokeswoman said the industry was well versed in dealing with job site heat and already had heat-management strategies in place.

"Builders have followed a risk-based approach for a long time, with many actions taken prior to workers simply downing tools," she said.

"Workers can be reassigned to different tasks, rescheduled to do certain work during cooler periods, as well as ensuring workers have access to cold water and ice."

Mr Mort said the MiHaven workforce of 40 tradesmen would be decimated if forced to comply with the regulations.

Artist impression of the Cairns Convention Centre upgrade and extension. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Artist impression of the Cairns Convention Centre upgrade and extension. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

"It would decimate the working team, it would decimate the office team and it potentially has the effect of putting a great percentage of our workforce out of work," he said.

Lecturer and exercise and sports scientist Joshua Guy said after acclimatisation it was possible for tradespeople to work safely in the high 20s.

"Provided there are the proper precautions have adequate clothing, they are taking in the right nutrition, they are well hydrated and taking breaks, I don't imagine it being a high stress environment," he said.

Master Builders Queensland understood the government's guidelines only apply to south east Queensland.

"So the Cairns Convention Centre project shouldn't be impacted," she said.

LOCALS ALREADY KNOW HOW TO STAY COOL

LECTURER and exercise and sports scientist Dr Joshua Guy said the acclimatisation of workers meant adaptation over time reduced the effect of hot and humid conditions.

"You get changes in your sweat rate, so you might sweat more but lose less minerals," he said.

"So there's certainly adaptations to living in hot and humid environments that we see in tropical natives compared with those that may move from the southern states. So obviously you need to be cautious of those who have relocated recently who have not had a lead in."



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