Objectives This study aims to investigate the characteristics of economic costs of occupational heat illnesses in South Australia, and to examine the association between high temperatures and occupational heat illness related economic costs.
Methods Workers' compensation claim data were obtained from SafeWork South Australia for the period of 2001–2015. Weather data were collected from the Bureau of Meteorology. The association between heat illness and economic loss was estimated by time-series analysis with generalized estimating equation models after controlling for day of week and long-term trends.
Results There were 306 occupational heat illness claims during the study period, resulting in medical expenditure of $1,795,640 and 2,787 days of time loss. Male workers accounted for 87.8% and 82.5% of medical costs and time-lost days, respectively. The mining industry had the greatest proportion of medical expenditure (56.0%) and days off work due to heat illnesses (67.4%), followed by "community services" and "agriculture, forestry and fishing". There was a positive relationship between maximum temperature (Tmax), medical expenditure, and days of time lost. A 1°C increase of Tmax was associated with 18.5% (IRR 1.185, 95% CI 1.071–1.312) increase in medical expenditure and 34.6% (IRR 1.346, 95% CI 1.128–1.534) increase in time-lost days due to occupational heat illnesses, respectively.
Conclusions Occupational heat related-illnesses represent a significant economic cost, and interventions in South Australia should be targeted at the mining industry.
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