Impact of climate change and heat stress on workers’ health and productivity: A scoping review

Elsevier, Journal of Climate Change and Health, Volume 12, 1 July 2023
Amoadu M., Ansah E.W., Sarfo J.O., Hormenu T.

Background: There are indications that heatwaves will be intensified in duration, frequency and magnitude and will pose threats to the livelihoods and health of the global working population. The purpose of this scoping review was to map evidence regarding occupational heat stress risk factors, their impact on workers’ health and productivity, and potential adaptation measures. Methods: Keywords reflecting climate change, heat stress, health, productivity and adaptation strategies were used for searches in PubMed, PubMed Central, Scopus and Web of Science. Manuscripts that focused on heat adaptation, health and productivity outcomes of heat exposure among working populations were considered eligible for this review, while reviews, preprints and papers focused on the general population were excluded. Results: The evidence suggests that gender, age, pre-shift dehydration, piece-rate payment, poor access to sanitation facilities, use of inappropriate personal protective equipment, physically demanding work, high workload, low job control, and high temperatures are risk factors for heat-related illness, dehydration, kidney diseases and mental distress. Specific working populations including migrants, pregnant women, and children were found to be extremely vulnerable to heat stress. The review identified that frequent intake of fluids, resting under shade or in cooling facilities, changing work hours, and increased electrolyte intake were used as adaptation measures. Conclusion: Measures targeting adequate hydration, self-pacing, work-rest regimes, provision of shade and appropriate sanitation facilities need to be matched with improved psychosocial work conditions such as optimal work hours, job autonomy and control, and social supports to ensure safe working conditions in changing climates.