Above a certain amount, high temperatures can lead to heat stress*. Heat stress is caused by overheating of the body and manifests as various physical and mental complaints, such as headaches, cramps, dizziness or aggression. In very severe cases, heat stress can even result in death. Moreover, for people who suffer from heat stress during work, the risk of work accidents is also higher.
Some workers are more susceptible to heat stress due to the nature and conditions of their work. Research points to five factors that increase the risk:
- physical and health characteristics
- performing physical labor
- the work environment
- the work schedule,
- protective clothing that has low ventilation (Horie 2013; Morabito et al. 2021).
Warm temperatures additionally impact the physical and mental capabilities of workers. This affects not only occupational safety, but also productivity. Research shows that 30% of the employees who experience heat stress during a shift, experience productivity loss, and that this loss increases gradually for every degree increase above 24°C WBGT*(Borg et al. 2021; Flouris et al. 2018). Research estimates that the global economic cost of this productivity loss is greater than that of all other disruptions caused by climate change (Morabito et al. 2021).