This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 668786

Overview/summary for Construction

 

The construction industry plays an important role in the EU economy providing 18 million direct jobs and contributes to about 9% of the EU’s GDP. A total of 42.9 million workers in Europe depend, directly or indirectly, on the construction sector. Overall, EU’s internal market provides international partners access to more than 500 million people and approximately 13 trillion Euro in GDP.

The nature of work in the construction industry is strenuous, since it imposes high physical loads and the working techniques remain manual for the most part. Construction workers perform demanding physical activities, often in harsh environments, and most of them are exposed to excessive heat stress especially during the summer months. Several studies investigating heat-related mortality outcomes among workers indicated that the construction industry had consistently higher fatality rates related to heat stress as compared to other industries. Projected increases in extreme heat due to changing climate, along with other factors, are expected to increase the vulnerability of construction workers to heat stress.

Heat stress can cause a host of conditions and illnesses to workers ranging from headaches, dizziness, general discomfort and cramps to heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. Excessive occupational heat stress not only affects the individual, but also influences work productivity and performance with negative outcomes in the economy.

The HEAT-SHIELD project will conduct field studies in the construction sector to monitor and assess the working and environmental conditions as well as to address the workers’ needs and characteristics in order to identify the potential risk factors for heat related issues.

To avoid excessive heating and preventing negative effects on health and productivity of construction workers, a combination of various control methods is recommended:

  • Schedule heavy work for earlier or later in the day instead of the hottest midday hours.

  • Track weather and heat conditions and adjust work accordingly, particularly in the event of a heat wave.

  • Incorporate equipment that requires less physical labour.

  • When possible, assign work that can be done in the shade.

  • Drink plenty of cool water, before and during the shift to stay hydrated.

  • Take frequent work/rest cycles in cool and shaded areas.

  • Acclimate workers to heat through gradual exposure.

  • Hats and caps should be provided to protect the head from sun radiation.

  • Wear appropriate clothing with breathable material that allows the airflow and helps your skin breathe.

  • Educate workers on symptoms and treatment of heat stress.