McDonald's has denied claims staff at its West Dubbo store were forced to work in 50 degree heat after an air conditioning unit malfunctioned during a summer heatwave.
The NSW workplace health and safety regulator inspected the store on Friday after the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union lodged a complaint about the lack of action McDonald's took to ensure staff were kept safe and cool.
"A SafeWork inspector, employees and the business reviewed heat control options and additional portable air conditioning units were obtained by the business," a SafeWork NSW spokesperson told Australian Community Media.
Last Thursday, after the main air conditioning unit malfunctioned, distraught McDonald's workers sent images to the union which showed thermometer readings of 51.9 degrees and 45.9 degrees. The images were allegedly taken inside the kitchen and small drive-through space staff work in.
"The alleged ambient temperatures of the restaurant's working environment are incorrect and have not been accurately captured or displayed in the images posted," McDonald's Australia's corporate relations director James Rickards claimed.
"We understand the readings captured in the photographs were taken next to a filter exhaust, not where employees are located throughout a shift," he said.
"The ambient temperature away from this location in the restaurant is significantly below the temperatures described."
Because the faulty air conditioning unit was running at a reduced capacity and not expected to be repaired until Monday, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union immediately raised workers concerns with McDonald's and SafeWork NSW.
The union's national secretary Josh Cullinan said the fast-food conglomerate was "misinformed about the seriousness of the issues" in Dubbo.
"They wanted to debate the quality of the thermometer readings and the location of the readings which we just don't have time for," Mr Cullinan said.
"Drive-through bays that face the sun in Australia get up into the 50's...that West Dubbo drive-through faces the sun in the afternoon.
"It was good that SafeWork NSW was able to get out there and experience firsthand what's actually going on there unlike the head office of McDonald's in Sydney or Melbourne who are no doubt in salubrious surroundings."
According to Mr Cullinan, some staff became ill and had to stop working because the heat in the kitchen and drive-through area was so extreme.
He said the union was also told McDonald's staff in Dubbo and other parts of Australia, who were too scared to speak out, were often forced to sweat through summers without sufficient air conditioning.
The SafeWork NSW spokesperson warned "compliance action to ensure safe workplaces, including ensuring heat stress risk is adequately controlled" would be taken by the regulator where required.