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HEATWAVES ARE COSTING AUSTRALIA BILLIONS IN LOST PRODUCTIVITY

Extreme heat is a serious threat for the Australian economy, and a new paper encourages workplaces to start adapting to it in order to limit negative economic impacts.

In early May, a new research paper regarding Australian heatwaves was published on Nature Climate Change. The study – which has involved 1,726 working adults across Australia and has been conducted in May and October 2014, covering the previous 12 months – found that 70% of people had worked less efficiently at some point over 2014 due to extreme heat, while a further 7% had missed at least one day of work because of the unbearable temperatures.

The diminished productivity and the increased absenteeism have caused an average economic loss of US$932 a person a year, costing the Australian economy US$6.2 billion. What’s more, according to Dr Kerstin Zander, an agricultural scientist who led the research, this figure is probably an underestimate, as “the research didn’t measure for the loss in productivity of those who don’t get paid, such as carers and volunteers, or for people over 65 years old”.

The study also highlights the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings that it is 90% certain the amount of warm days has increased globally, and 99% certain that the iteration of warm days will increase over the next decades. This could be disastrous for Australia, where heatwaves are already the most deadly natural hazard – being accountable for 55% of all deaths caused by natural disasters – and where workers spend on average 10 days a year under serious heat stress.

For this reasons, the research heartily recommends workplaces to start adapting to extreme heat “if sever economic impacts from labour productivity loss are to be avoided if heatwaves become as frequent as predicted”. For example, it suggests that employers implement strategies such as improved access to water and fitness programmes.

 

 

The gLAWcal Team

POREEN project

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

(Source: Guardian)