Australia urgently needs a dedicated, independently administered fund to meet the escalating costs of natural disasters due to global warming.
Beneficiaries of the National Climate Disaster Fund?
Funding can be distributed amongst the most disaster impacted regions and sectors in Australia. These include:
Protecting the health and safety of construction workers and maintaining productivity in the construction industry in an era of increasing heatwaves will require significant changes to work practices.
Construction is one of Australia’s largest industries in terms of employment, employing over 1.1 million people, making up around 7% of the workforce (Abs (November 2018). 6291.0.55.003 Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Table 4.). The high portion of workers required to undertake strenuous activity outdoors on construction sites make it particularly exposed to the impact of heatwaves on worker’s health and safety as well as productivity.
Worksafe Australia lists a range of serious heat related illnesses (HRIs) including heat exhaustion, heat cramps, dehydration and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Business owners have a legal duty to ensure workers are “not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking” (Worksafe Australia, Guidence material: managing the risks of working in the heat).
The Occupational Health and Safety Representatives of the Victorian Trades Hall Council who recommend paid work breaks of 45 minutes per hour when the temperature reaches 34 degrees and that work ceases at 36 degrees see 35 degrees as the “Limit of high temperature tolerance”.
Extreme heat events including heatwaves are expected to rise dramatically over coming decades. Penrith in Western Sydney experienced an average of 13 days per year over 35 degrees. This is expected to rise to up to 22 days in 2030 and up to 59 days per year by 2090 as a result of global warming (Ogge et al (2018) HeatWatch: Extreme heat in Western Sydney). Western Sydney has a construction workforce of 52,000 (Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) website, Issues).
Research has estimated that work absenteeism and reductions in work performance caused by heat cost the Australian economy nearly $7 billion in 2013/14 alone (Zander, Opperman and Garnet (2015) Extreme heat poses a billion-dollar threat to Australia’s economy).