Worker heat stress ‘workability’ in an evolving climate

30 Aug 2019
11:15 - 11:45
St George Room

Worker heat stress ‘workability’ in an evolving climate

While Queensland’s climate is diverse, encompassing tropical, sub-tropical, hot arid and temperate zones, all regions endure extended periods of hot weather with the frequency and intensity of these hot periods projected to increase. The impact of this heat is widespread, including within occupational settings where exposed workers are at risk of heat stress due to the decreased potential to dissipate heat. Sustained body heat storage may manifest in core body temperatures approaching or exceeding occupational limits. The consequences of sustained heat (and humidity) exposure are yet to be definitively described, yet anecdotal observations suggest that chronic heat stress impacts worker health, safety, productivity and general well-being.

A novel method of quantifying the likelihood for worker heat stress based upon work rate and climate factors is termed ‘workability’, the proportion of time per shift permitted to undertake work. Through workability, this presentation details the impact of the 2018/19 summer season and reveals the projected medium-term impact of environmental heat for Queensland workers. Attendees will also be provided with an overview of strategies to mitigate worker heat stress now and into a future characterised by an evolving climate.