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The impact of sustained hot weather on risk of acute work-related injury in Melbourne, Australia

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It has been reported that weather-related high ambient temperature is associated with an increased risk of work-related injury. Understanding this relationship is important because work-related injuries are a major public health problem, and because projected climate changes will potentially expose workers to hot days, including consecutive hot days, more often. The aim of this study was to quantify the impact of exposure to sustained periods of hot weather on work-related injury risk for workers in Melbourne, Australia. A time-stratified case crossover study design was utilised to examine the association between two and three consecutive days and two and three consecutive nights of hot weather and the risk of work-related injury, using definitions of hot weather ranging from the 60th to the 95th percentile of daily maximum and minimum temperatures for the Melbourne metropolitan area, 2002–2012. Workers’ compensation claim data was used to identify cases of acute work-related injury. Overall, two and three consecutive days of hot weather were associated with an increased risk of injury, with this effect becoming apparent at a daily maximum temperature of 27.6 °C (70th percentile). Three consecutive days of high but not extreme temperatures were associated with the strongest effect, with a 15% increased risk of injury (odds ratio 1.15, 95% confidence interval 1.01–1.30) observed when daily maximum temperature was ≥33.3 °C (90th percentile) for three consecutive days, compared to when it was not. At a threshold of 35.5 °C (95th percentile), there was no significant association between temperature and injury for either two or three consecutive days of heat. These findings suggest that warnings to minimise harm to workers from hot weather should be given, and prevention protocol initiated, when consecutive warm days of temperatures lower than extreme heat temperatures are forecast, and well before the upper ranges of ambient daytime temperatures are reached.

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Compensation claim administrative data was provided by the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery (ISCRR), based within Monash University. Whilst completing this work, Peter Smith was supported by a discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council, and through a Research Chair in Gender, Work and Health from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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Correspondence to Judith Anne McInnes.

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McInnes, J.A., MacFarlane, E.M., Sim, M.R. et al. The impact of sustained hot weather on risk of acute work-related injury in Melbourne, Australia. Int J Biometeorol 62, 153–163 (2018).

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