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Title: Influence of age, geographical region, and work unit on heat strain symptoms: a cross-sectional survey of electrical utility workers.
Authors: Rogerson, Shane
Brearley, Matt
Meir, Rudi
Brooks, Lyndon
Citation: J Occup Environ Hyg. 2020 Nov 16:1-8. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2020.1834112.
Abstract: This study assessed self-reported heat strain symptoms in workers of a state wide electrical utility distributor to determine risk differences between age groups, geographical work regions and work units. Out of a total 3,250 workers, 918 (∼28%) outdoor staff completed an online survey, which assessed the frequency of self-reported heat strain symptoms in the work and post-work settings, factors contributing to symptoms and symptom management. Heat strain symptoms were grouped into chronic low-grade cases and isolated high-grade cases based on the severity and frequency of symptoms. The risk (likelihood) of an employee being classified as either a chronic low-grade or isolated high-grade case was calculated and compared to the mean risk of all categories to determine risk difference, expressed as -1.00 to 1.00. For chronic low-grade cases, the 41-50 years age group had significantly increased risk (+0.08, p < 0.05) while the over 60 years age group had significantly decreased risk (-0.14, p < 0.05). Two of the three regions (p < 0.01) and three of the nine work units also demonstrated risk differences (p < 0.01) for chronic low-grade cases. Work units were the sole grouping to demonstrate risk difference for isolated high-risk cases. Work units with greater exposure to heat and higher requirement for protective clothing, such as Underground (+0.19, p < 0.05), Overhead - Predominantly Live Line (+0.18, p < 0.01), and Overhead - Distribution and Transmission (+0.11, p < 0.05) were at greater risk of reporting heat stress symptoms. This study demonstrates that the pattern of self-reported chronic low-grade heat strain cases differs to isolated high-grade cases within the electrical utility industry. Age, geographical location, and work unit independently alter the risk of chronic low-grade heat strain, while the risk of isolated high-grade heat strain was only related to work unit. These outcomes support implementation of a flexible and targeted approach to heat stress management in large and diverse organizations in which employees are routinely exposed to heat.
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Journal title: Journal of occupational and environmental hygiene
Pages: 1-8
Publication Date: 2020-11-16
Type: Journal Article
DOI: 10.1080/15459624.2020.1834112
Appears in Collections:(a) NT Health Research Collection

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