Researchers place spotlight on heat stress

21-Nov-2016

Dr Elspeth Oppermann: “… research needs to be conducted through genuine collaboration with industry partners.”

Dr Elspeth Oppermann: “… research needs to be conducted through genuine collaboration with industry partners.”


Employers in Northern Australia can play an important role in a new research program examining heat stress across Australia’s monsoon tropics, says a researcher at Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute.

Dr Elspeth Oppermann said there was widespread acknowledgement that outdoor labour-intensive workers experienced heat stress, but dealing with the problem was hampered by the lack of feasible, regionally appropriate responses.

“Heat stress poses a significant challenge to the safety, health and wellbeing of the workforce in the region, particularly during the ‘build-up’ and Wet season,” Dr Oppermann said.

“The monsoonal north of Australia experiences prolonged periods of hot and humid heat. To develop heat stress management strategies that employers can really use, research needs to be conducted through genuine collaboration with industry partners.”

Dr Oppermann said the recently established Heat Stress Research Partnership comprised Northern Australia’s largest employers of apprentices and trainees, operating across northern WA, NT and Queensland: Kimberley Group Training, GTNT and Skill360 Australia. 

The three industry organisations have joined forces with research expertise from Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute, Menzies School of Health Research, James Cook University and RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research. 

“The partnership builds on a number of collaborative research projects between academic partners and the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre that have taken place in the Northern Territory over the past few years,” Dr Oppermann said.

“This includes research into the occupational heat strain on utility workers in the Top End, the social practices through which workers produce and manage their bodily heat, statistics on apprenticeship completions and withdrawals, and the epidemiology of hospital presentations in the NT.”

Dr Oppermann said the Heat Stress Research Partnership met last month to finalise its research strategy. 

“Through this research we will develop a better understanding of the incidence of heat stress and practical interventions that can prevent and manage it more effectively in the region. The research will also examine opportunities to inform policies relating to the Developing the North agenda.

“We now ask that industry organisations or employers interested in being part of the research program contact the Heat Stress Research Partnership.”

Dr Oppermann is the coordinator of the Heat Stress Research Partnership and can be contacted at E: elspeth.oppermann@cdu.edu.au or T: 08 8946 7649.