Excessive occupational heat exposure: a significant ergonomic challenge and health risk for current and future workers

Extrem Physiol Med. 2014 Jul 23;3:14. doi: 10.1186/2046-7648-3-14. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Occupational heat exposure threatens the health of a worker not only when heat illness occurs but also when a worker's performance and work capacity is impaired. Occupational contexts that involve hot and humid climatic conditions, heavy physical workloads and/or protective clothing create a strenuous and potentially dangerous thermal load for a worker. There are recognized heat prevention strategies and international thermal ergonomic standards to protect the worker. However, such standards have been developed largely in temperate western settings, and their validity and relevance is questionable for some geographical, cultural and socioeconomic contexts where the risk of excessive heat exposure can be high. There is evidence from low- and middle-income tropical countries that excessive heat exposure remains a significant issue for occupational health. Workers in these countries are likely to be at high risk of excessive heat exposure as they are densely populated, have large informal work sectors and are expected to experience substantial increases in temperature due to global climate change. The aim of this paper is to discuss current and future ergonomic risks associated with working in the heat as well as potential methods for maintaining the health and productivity of workers, particularly those most vulnerable to excessive heat exposure.

Keywords: Climate; Exposure; Heat stress; Occupational injury; Productivity; Work.

Publication types

  • Review