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Report looks at ‘impacts of a warmer world’ on workers


Photo: ST.art/iStockphoto

London — A new report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers details how industries can adapt to future heat waves and rising temperatures. 

Heat waves are “the most prominent reason” for weather-related deaths – more than hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, lightning and earthquakes combined, the independent professional association says. It adds that heat stress at work will cost an estimated $2.4 trillion worldwide by 2030. 

The report warns that rising temperatures pose serious health risks for both indoor and outdoor workers. Workers who are involved in higher levels of physical exertion, such as lifting or manual labor, are most likely to be affected. Workers who need to wear personal protective equipment or heavy clothing are vulnerable as well.

The report looks at thermal comfort, the six basic contributing factors and the Fanger model-based thermal comfort scale

“Thermal comfort is very important in a workplace, and if it is not achieved, morale, productivity, health and safety will all likely deteriorate,” the report states. “Poor thermal comfort means colleagues are more likely to behave unsafely and make poor decisions.

“For example, in hot environments, workers may be tempted not to wear personal protective equipment properly, leading to greater safety risks. Heat may also affect a worker’s ability to concentrate on a given task through decreased cognitive function, increasing the chances of errors and accidents, thereby reducing productivity.”

The report highlights case studies, engineering challenges and impacts of extreme heat on industrial buildings.

“The impacts of a warmer world on industry will be complex and broad, including technical, economic and health-related, and the implications of the findings of this report are applicable across the globe,” IMechE says in an April 26 press release. “Adapting industries to, and preparing them for, a warmer world will be essential for the future successful functioning of societies of all nations.”

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