8.2.9 Occupational health
Changes in climate have implications for occupational health and safety. Heat stress due to high temperature and humidity is an occupational hazard that can lead to death or chronic ill-health from the after-effects of heatstroke (Wyndham, 1965; Afanas’eva et al., 1997; Adelakun et al., 1999). Both outdoor and indoor workers are at risk of heatstroke (Leithead and Lind, 1964; Samarasinghe, 2001; Shanks and Papworth, 2001). The occupations most at risk of heatstroke, based on data from the USA, include construction and agriculture/forestry/fishing work (Adelakun et al., 1999; Krake et al., 2003). Acclimatisation in tropical environments does not eliminate the risk, as evidenced by the occurrence of heatstroke in metal workers in Bangladesh (Ahasan et al., 1999) and rickshaw pullers in South Asia (OCHA, 2003). Several of the heatstroke deaths reported in the 2003 and 2006 heatwaves in Paris were associated with occupational exposure (Senat, 2004)
Hot working environments are not just a question of comfort, but a concern for health protection and the ability to perform work tasks. Working in hot environments increases the risk of diminished ability to carry out physical tasks (Kerslake, 1972), diminishes mental task ability (Ramsey, 1995), increases accident risk (Ramsey et al., 1983) and, if prolonged, may lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke (Hales and Richards, 1987) (see Section 8.5).