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Combining heat mitigation strategies improves worker health and productivity: study

Experiments in KSI's MISSION Heat Lab simulate excessively hot working conditions. (Jason Sheldon/UConn Photo)

Storrs, CT — Helping workers stay cool in the heat not only improves their health, it also bolsters productivity, according to the results of a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute studied 13 physically active men who completed five 4.5-hour trials that simulated a hot outdoor work shift. Thermoregulatory responses (body temperature, heart rate and mean skin temperature) and productivity outcomes were examined after five different heat mitigation strategies.

When participants were given what the researchers called the “gold standard” of mitigation strategies – which included unlimited access to water, changing ice packs in a cooling vest, working in shaded conditions and using towels to cool down – they completed 14% more box lifts; took longer to become exhausted; and reported improved perceptions of their body temperature, exertion and fatigue.

The metrics for both worker health and productivity improved as the researchers added more strategies. 

“That’s the data we want to share with companies,” study author Gabrielle Brewer, director of occupational safety at KSI, said in a press release. “If they can keep their workers safe from a physiology perspective, maybe they’re not getting as hot, they’re not staying as hot for as long, and they’re being more productive at work on top of that, that’s a win for everyone. There are a lot of options out there, and our data from this study shows that the more heat mitigation strategies you can combine, the more helpful it can be overall.”

The study was published online in the journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.

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