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How does heat affect workers’ health and productivity?


ACCIONA Construction is taking part in the HEAT-SHIELD project, which analyses the consequences of working in very high temperatures

Temperature rises driven by climate change are not only worrying for individuals and public administrations but also present potential risks to the health of workers in certain environments.

To study the negative effects of heat on the health and productivity of workers, ACCIONA Construction’s R&D centre is taking part in the European HEAT-SHIELD project. Financed by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Framework Programme, the HEAT-SHIELD project consists of 20 partners (research institutions, legislative organisations, private companies and civil society organisations) from 11 European countries.

The study focuses on Europe’s strategic economic sectors of construction, manufacturing industry, transport, tourism and agriculture, which account for a combined 40% of the EU’s GDP and employ 50% of the active population in the European Union.

Various climate change scenarios will be analysed during the project and their potential effects on workers’ health and productivity, taking into account characteristics such as age, gender, etc. Technical and biophysical solutions will be monitored and improvement guidelines will be formulated that will be available via an online platform.

It is calculated that around half of the economic costs resulting from climate change over the next 15 years will be attributable to the increase in workplace temperatures, due to lower productivity and higher healthcare costs.

The main goal of the HEAT-SHIELD project is therefore to identify measures that can reduce this impact, improving workers’ health and quality of life.

Minimise the effects of heat in the construction sector

As part of the HEAT-SHIELD project, ACCIONA Construction’s R&D centre is carrying out a study at a works site constructing residential properties in Zaragoza (105 homes in the Zaragoza Seminary project). A total of 15 employees will be monitored during the study, aged between 20 and 55, who perform different functions on the project.

All of them will have small wireless body temperature sensors attached to various points of the body (forearm, thigh, chest and knee) to monitor them during the working day over the course of two days. Various anthropometric characteristics will also be recorded such as height, weight, age, etc.

Collaboration and coordination between works personnel and the Health & Safety Department is therefore a fundamental aspect.

Once the data collection phase has been completed, the data will be analysed in order to design measures that minimise the effects of heat in these working environments.

Participation in the HEAT-SHIELD program is part of ACCIONA’s commitment to the health and safety of its employees in all of its projects. Occupational health and safety is a differentiating factor for the company, which uses participation, training and collaboration tools to ensure the health and safety of all of its employees and partners.

For more information about the HEAT-SHIELD project.

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