Injury rates surge as temperature increases

Italian researchers from a major workplace health and safety agency and two universities analysed all occupational injuries sustained by some 20,000 construction workers between 2000 to 2013, and found the average injury rate of about 2.8 injuries per 10,000 workers per day increased to 3.2 on "summer days", where temperatures rose above 25 degrees.

During the first two days of "heat wave" events – where the temperature rose above 35 degrees on three or more consecutive days – the injury rate jumped to 3.57 injuries per 10,000 workers per day, before falling slightly to 3.43 on the third day. The researchers said that high temperatures can affect cognition, hamper concentration, reduce vigilance and increase fatigue. Working during warm weather would ultimately increase the risk of mistakes, accidents and injuries.

The researchers said, "Our data confirm previous reports from the construction industries that extreme weather may be associated with increased risk of occupational injuries, particularly at the beginning of heat wave events." They suggest workers might initially unsafely overlook uncomfortable weather conditions, particularly during summer, until persistent exposure to high temperatures leads to "more cautious conduct".

The findings highlight the importance of organisations actively implementing appropriate weather procedures and guidelines, and ensuring heat stress countermeasures like warning systems and suspending activities at work sites are enacted promptly, the researchers say.  In Australia we are expecting our summers to get increasingly hotter - and so the necessity of employers taking measures to reduce the risks of working in heat is becoming increasingly important.
Read more: Matteo Riccò, et al, Air temperatures and occupational injuries in the construction industries: a report from Northern Italy (2000–2013). [Abstract - PDF of full article can be downloaded here] Industrial Health, online first September 2019, doi:10.2486/indhealth.2018-0268. Source: OHS Alert. Read more on Heat.

Truck driver research - Calling all drivers!

Researchers from Melbourne's Monash University have begun the second stage of the Driving Health research project, a major study into truck driver health aimed to making the industry safer. In this second stage the research team is calling on professional drivers of all kinds of trucks — from light rigids up to road trains — to participate in a survey about their health.

The survey is being administered by Monash in partnership with the Centre for Work Health and Safety, Linfox Logistics and the Transport Workers’ Union, with the support of the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“Driving is a tough job,” said Michael Kaine, TWU National Secretary. “We must do more to ensure our drivers are healthy and safe at work. This survey will give us a baseline of information that will allow us to put in better strategies for the future.” Watch a video of Michael Kaine explaining the project.

The survey opened this month and can be completed on any device with internet access. It has three phases, with involvement in each phase being voluntary:

  1. Online survey: This 10-minute online survey includes questions around the general health of drivers and aims to provide an overview of driver health and associated factors.
  2. Follow-up survey: Those who complete phase one are given the option to participate further in the study via a 25-minute telephone interview that will offer the researchers further insight into the factors that influence driver health. More information on this phase of the survey. 
  3. Final phase: Participants are given the option to provide the research team with access to their Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme information, which will yield further insights. The Driving Health Explanatory Statement [pdf] has further information.

“This survey will provide new insights into factors in the workplace, at home and in the community that affect health in positive and negative ways,” Dr Ross Iles from the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine said. “Driving for a living poses many health challenges, both mental and physical, and yet there is little research or documentation that can drive change to help drivers be healthy and stay healthy at work.”

As a result of Stage 1, the team found that professional truck drivers are 13 times more likely than any other workers to die on the job.  In their earlier research, the researchers analysed 12 years of data during which more than 120,000 injury and fatality claims were made. They also found that the driving workforce is getting older and that truck drivers are more than three times more likely to break bones at work compared with other workers.

Occupational health and safety-related risks that professional truck drivers face include: long hours, chronic fatigue and isolation. Tight delivery deadlines also contribute to elevated stress in an already challenging workplace. Mental health is a persistent issue faced by professional truck drivers, with research showing that truck drivers take, on average, more than 10 weeks’ leave when work-related mental health factors result in a driver being unfit for work. Mental health risks are also associated with transport workers in other sectors.
More information on the study. Stage 1 findings. Source: Safety Solutions

Barriers to return to work: New Study

Monash University's School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine is undertaking new study on the barriers and enablers to return to work, as judged by Australian return to work experts.  The research team is seeking the views of people with professional experience with an Australian workers' compensation scheme to complete a 15 to 20 minure online survey. They are seeking a diverse range of views including from:

  • Insurance Case Managers
  • Healthcare practitioners
  • Lawyers
  • Return to Work Coordinators
  • Government employees
  • Worker advocates
  • Rehabilitation coordinators
  • Consultants
  • and so on.

The study is part of an Australian Research Council funded project being led by the Insurance Work and Health Group at Monash University. It is also seeking to identify the major changes to workers' compensation policy and practice in Australia over the past decade. The survey can be accessed via this link or via the study website


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