14 Dec Health vs. wealth: Employer, employee and policy-maker perspectives on occupational heat stress across multiple European industries
Morris NB, Levi M, Morabito M, Messeri A, Ioannou LG, Flouris AD, Samoutis G, Pogačar T, Bogataj LK, Piil JF, Nybo L. Health vs. wealth: Employer, employee and policy-maker perspectives on occupational heat stress across multiple European industries. Temperature (Austin). 2020 Dec 14;8(3):284-301. doi: 10.1080/23328940.2020.1852049. PMID: 34485621; PMCID: PMC8409781.
Successful implementation of cooling strategies obviously depends on identifying effective interventions, but in industrial settings, it is equally important to consider feasibility and economic viability. Many cooling interventions are available, but the decision processes affecting adoption by end-users are not well elucidated. We therefore arranged two series of meetings with stakeholders to identify knowledge gaps, receive feedback on proposed cooling interventions, and discuss factors affecting implementation of heat-health interventions. This included four meetings attended by employers, employees, and health and safety officers (n = 41), and three meetings attended primarily by policy makers (n = 74), with feedback obtained via qualitative and quantitative questionnaires and focus group discussions. On a 10-point scale, both employers and employees valued worker safety (9.1 ± 1.8; mean±SD) and health (8.5 ± 1.9) as more important than protecting company profits (6.3 ± 2.3). Of the respondents, 41% were unaware of any cooling strategies at their company and of those who were aware, only 30% thought the interventions were effective. Following presentation of proposed interventions, the respondents rated “facilitated hydration”, “optimization of clothing/protective equipment”, and “rescheduling of work tasks” as the top-three preferred solutions. The main barriers for adopting cooling interventions were cost, feasibility, employer perceptions, and legislation. In conclusion, preventing negative health and safety effects was deemed to be more important than preventing productivity loss. Regardless of work sector or occupation, both health and wealth were emphasized as important parameters and considered as somewhat interrelated. However, a large fraction of the European worker force lacks information on effective measures to mitigate occupational heat stress. List of abbreviations: OH-Stress: Occupational heat stress; WBGT: Wet Bulb Globe Temperature.
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