Exploring Heat Stress Relief Measures among the Australian Labour Force

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Abstract

Australia experiences frequent heat waves and generally high average temperatures throughout the continent with substantial impacts on human health and the economy. People adapt to heat by adopting various relief measures in their daily lives including changing their behaviour. Many labour intensive outdoor industries implement standards for heat stress management for their workforce. However, little is known about how people cope with heat at their workplaces apart from studies targeting some specific industries where labourers are exposed to extreme heat. Here, we analysed responses from 1719 people in the Australian labour force to self-reported heat stress and associated coping mechanisms. Three quarters of respondents experienced heat stress at their workplace with fatigue and headache being the two most frequently stated symptoms. Almost all of those who were affected by heat would hydrate (88%), 67% would cool, and 44% would rest as a strategy for coping with heat. About 10% intended to change their jobs because of heat stress in the workplace. We found differences in heat relief measures across gender, education, health, level of physical intensity of job, and time spent working outside. People working in jobs that were not very demanding physically were more likely to choose cooling down as a relief measure, while those in labour intensive jobs and jobs that required considerable time outside were more likely to rest. This has potential consequences for their productivity and work schedules. Heat affects work in Australia in many types of industry with impact dependent on workforce acclimatisation, yet public awareness and work relief plans are often limited to outdoor and labour intensive industries. Industries and various levels of government in all sectors need to implement standards for heat management specific to climate zones to help people cope better with high temperatures as well as plan strategies in anticipation of projected temperature increases.
Original languageEnglish
Article number401
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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