Climate Change Effects on the Predicted Heat Strain and Labour Capacity of Outdoor Workers in Australia

Andrew P Hunt, Matt Brearley, Andrew Hall, Rodney Pope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Global heating is subjecting more of the planet to longer periods of higher heat stress categories commonly employed to determine safe work durations. This study compared predicted worker heat strain and labour capacity for a recent normal climate (1986-2005) and under commonly applied climate scenarios for the 2041-2080 period for selected Australian locations. Recently published heat indices for northern (Darwin, Townsville, and Tom Price) and south-eastern coastal and inland Australia locations (Griffith, Port Macquarie, and Clare) under four projected climate scenarios, comprising two representative concentration pathways (RCPs), RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, and two time periods, 2041-2060 and 2061-2080, were used. Safe work durations, before the threshold for core temperature (38.0 °C) or sweat loss (5% body mass) are attained, were then estimated for each scenario using the predicted heat strain model (ISO7933). The modelled time to threshold core temperature varied with location, climate scenario, and metabolic rate. Relative to the baseline (1986-2005), safe work durations (labour capacity) were reduced by >50% in Port Macquarie and Griffith and by 20-50% in northern Australia. Reaching the sweat loss limit restricted safe work durations in Clare and Griffith. Projected future climatic conditions will adversely impact the predicted heat strain and labour capacity of outdoor workers in Australia. Risk management strategies must adapt to warming conditions to protect outdoor workers from the deleterious effects of heat.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5675
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


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