Occupational heat strain in outdoor workers: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis

Occupational heat strain in outdoor workers a comprehensive review and meta-analysis - FAME Lab Ioannou LG, Foster J, Morris NB, Piil JF, Havenith G, Mekjavic IB, Kenny GP, Nybo L, & Flouris AD(2022). Occupational heat strain in outdoor workers: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Temperature, DOI: 10.1080/23328940.2022.2030634


The present comprehensive review (i) summarizes the current knowledge on the impacts of occupational heat stress on outdoor workers, (ii) provides a historical background on this issue, (iii) presents a meta-analysis of published data, (iv) explores inter-individual and intra-individual factors, (v) discusses the available heat mitigation strategies, (vi) estimates physical work capacity, labour productivity, and metabolic rate for the year 2030, and (vii) provides an overview of existing policy and legal frameworks on occupational heat exposure.

Meta-analytic findings from 38 field studies that involved monitoring 2,409 outdoor workers across 41 jobs in 21 countries suggest that occupational heat stress increases the core (r = 0.44) and skin (r = 0.44) temperatures, as well as the heart rate (r = 0.38) and urine specific gravity (r = 0.13) of outdoor workers (all p < 0.05). Moreover, it diminishes the capacity of outdoor workers for manual labour (r = −0.82; p < 0.001) and is responsible for more than two thirds of the reduction in their metabolic rate.

Importantly, our analysis shows that physical work capacity is projected to be highly affected by the ongoing anthropogenic global warming. Nevertheless, the metabolic rate and, therefore, labour productivity are projected to remain at levels higher than the workers’ physical work capacity, indicating that people will continue to work more intensely than they should to meet their financial obligations for food and shelter. In this respect, complementary measures targeting self-pacing, hydration, work-rest regimes, ventilated garments, and mechanization can be adopted to protect outdoor workers.

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