High Risk Sectors in the Face of Heat Stress

by Elise Saade 14 Aug. 2019

The summer of 2019 came with unprecedented temperatures we haven’t seen since 1947, reaching more than 45°C (11°F) in France. Globally, temperatures reached 1.71°F above the 20th century’s average.

According to the EU’S satellite agency, temperatures in June 2019 hit their peak in Europe with an increase of 10 degrees Celsius across France, Germany, northern Spain and Italy during the last week of the month. While temperature peaks do mean that people get to enjoy the sun, temperature peaks they often come with costly and weighty repercussions. In fact, the International Labor Organisation (ILO) has recently published a report “Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work” to showcase the impact of heat stress on productivity at national, regional and global levels. The report suggests that an equivalent loss of 80 million full-time jobs is estimated to take place in 2030.

Construction works and works conducted in an industrial atmosphere are expected to be from the most affected by heat stress.

Construction

The construction sector poses big risks on workers, as it entails outdoor activities for most of the time.

According to ILO’s report, this sector will be severely impacted, with an estimated 19 percent of global working hours lost by 2030.

Most of the working hours lost to heat stress in North America, Western Europe, Northern and Southern Europe and in the Arab States are concentrated in this sector.

Industrial work

When temperature is not regulated properly and ventilation is not well in place, industrial workers in indoor settings (factories, workshops) =are at higher risk of heat stress.

Office Environments

It should also be kept in mind that performing basic tasks in office environments can become quite daunting when high heat levels are reached; office workers become prone to mental fatigue much faster.

Tips

It is well known that heat is an occupational safety and heat hazard which can lead to reduced labour productivity when temperatures rise above 24–26°C, (75-78 °F). Heat can also lead to heat strokes—or even deaths—when above 33–34°C (91-93 °F).

Therefore, employers should implement some important prevention measures to ensure that heat repercussions are well under control. These include providing cold water in sufficient quantities, personal protective equipment that is appropriate to the level of exposure and effort (head covers, gloves, etc,) and adequate medical facilities in order to cope with medical emergencies resulting from heat stress. In addition, organizational measures must be taken to adjust the working time and to allow for rests during the work.

Conclusion

Temperatures are not expected to stop from soaring and breaking records all around the world—especially that nine of the hottest Junes over the last 140 years have occurred since 2010. Nevertheless, with the appropriate measures companies can face the adversities related to the heat stress issue.