Occupational heat exposure among municipal workers
Outdoor workers face elevated and prolonged heat exposures and have limited access to air-conditioned spaces. This study’s overarching research aim is to increase knowledge of municipal worker heat exposure and adaptation practices. The study’s sub-objectives are: (1) quantifying exposure misclassification from estimating personal heat exposure from the official weather station; (2) surveying worker’s knowledge and practices to adapt to extreme heat; and (3) relating heat exposure and adaptation practices to self-reported thermal comfort.
Participants wore a personal heat exposure sensor over 7 days from June 1st to July 3rd, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida US. Next, participants confirmed the days that they wore the sensor and reported their daily thermal comfort and heat adaptations. Finally, participants completed an extreme heat knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey.
Some participants (37%) experienced hotter and more humid conditions (heat index > 2) than the weather station. The most common heat adaptations were staying hydrated (85%), wearing a hat (46%), and seeking shade (40%). During work hours, higher temperatures increased the odds (odds ratio: 1.21, 95% confidence interval: 1.03–1.41, p = 0.016) of a participant feeling too hot. Shifting work duty indoors made workers to feel more comfortable (odds ratio: 0.28, 95% confidence interval: 0.11–0.70, p = 0.005).
In hot and humid climates, everyday, heat exposures continuously challenge the health of outdoor workers.
KeywordsExtreme heat Outdoor workers Adaptation Temperature Thermal comfort
We acknowledge Dr. Jon Powell, Jennifer Hill, and Katherine Estevez from the city of Tallahassee who helped facilitate this project. We thank employees who participated in the project and Dr. Mary Hayden who shared the extreme heat social survey. Finally, we thank anonymous reviewers whose comments notably improved the manuscript.
This publication was developed under Assistance Agreement No. (RD #83574901) awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Christopher K. Uejio. The manuscript was also supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants (EH12-1202; U38-EH000941) and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health grant (5U60OH010900-03). It has not been formally reviewed by the EPA. The views expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the EPA. EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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