Blesson Varghese

Researcher, University of Adelaide

Dr Blesson Varghese is an early career researcher in the field of public health and is an epidemiologist with specific interests in environmental and occupational health. Blesson has a background in Health Science (Public Health) with First Class Honours and recently completed his PhD within the School of Public Health at the University of Adelaide. His PhD project titled "Worker's Health and Safety at High Temperatures: new perspectives on injury prevention", part of a multi-institutional Australian Research Council (ARC) grant examined the impacts of extreme heat on work-related injuries in Australia. His research interests include work-related injury epidemiology and prevention, climate change, workplace heat exposure, and infectious diseases. He has extensive experience conducting research using large administrative surveillance datasets and surveys. His recently completed work at the Bureau of Meteorology examined the correlations between demographic profiles, dwelling profiles, existing health risks factors, and the human health impacts of heatwaves. Currently he is part of a team examining the burden of disease of climate-sensitive or heat-attributable diseases and injuries in Australia.

SESSION ABSTRACT

Hot working conditions can lead to heat-related illness and increase the risk of physical injuries. To better understand the injury phenomenon, mixed-methods research was undertaken using workers’ compensation claims, national online surveys of workers, health and safety professionals and representatives, interviews with workers, and a telephone complaints database. This paper integrates the findings into a conceptual model of psycho-behavioural and physiological changes in workers induced by heat stress. Injury risk factors relate to work, worker and workplace. The qualitative evidence indicates limited awareness of injury mechanisms in hot weather. In contrast to traditional risk factors for heat-related illness, risk factors for injury include interacting hazards in particular tasks; altered work practices, vigilance and reduced use of PPE as a result of heat exposure, dehydration and fatigue; and moderately hot conditions rather than extreme heat representing the greatest injury burden, in indoor as well as outdoor environments. Injuries, themselves, are diverse including traumatic injury and chemical-related injury, leading to extensive misclassification in current injury reporting systems. Importantly, heat-related injuries, such as falls from height or hand injuries, can occur before the onset of frank heat illness.

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3:40

Thursday 3rd Dec Day 4

Heat Exposure and Safety