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Thermal Stress in North Western Australian Iron Ore Mining Staff

Peiffer, J.J. and Abbiss, C.R. (2013) Thermal Stress in North Western Australian Iron Ore Mining Staff. Annals of Occupational Hygiene, 57 (4). pp. 519-527.

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Demand for Australian mined iron ore has increased employment within this sector, thus exposing increased numbers of workers to the harsh Australian climate. This study examined the influence of hot (>30°C wet bulb globe temperature) environmental temperatures, consistent with working in North Western Australia, on iron ore mining staff. Core temperature, hydration status, perceived exertion, mood, and fatigue state were measured in 77 participants at three time points (pre-, mid-, and post-shift) during a normal 12-h shift at an open-cut iron ore mining/processing site (n = 31; Site1) and an iron ore processing/shipping site (n = 46; Site2). A significant effect for time was observed for core temperature with greater mean core temperatures measured mid-shift (37.5 ± 0.4°C) and post-shift (37.6 ± 0.3°C) compared with pre-shift values (37.0 ± 0.5°C). All mean core temperature measures were lower than ISO7933 thresholds (38°C) for thermal safety. Mean hydration measures [urine-specific gravity (USG)] were greater at Site1 (1.029 ± 0.006) compared with those at Site2 (1.021 ± 0.007). Furthermore, both pre- and post-shift measures from Site1 and the post-shift measures from Site2 were greater than the threshold for dehydration (USG = 1.020). No differences were observed for mood or perceived exertion over time; however, measures of fatigue state were greater post-shift compared with pre- and mid-shift values for both sites. Our findings indicate that the majority of mine workers in North Western Australia are able to regulate work rate in hot environments to maintain core temperatures below ISO safety guidelines; however, 22% of workers reached or exceeded the safety guidelines, warranting further investigation. Furthermore, hydration practices, especially when off work, appear inadequate and could endanger health and safety.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: The Authors
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