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Ioannou L.G., Tsoutsoubi L., Giorkas V., Samoutis G. , Kenny G.P., Nybo L., Kjellstrom T., Flouris A.D.

FAME Laboratory, School of Exercise Science, University of Thessaly, Greece, Medical School, University of
Nicosia, Nicosia, Cyprus, Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit, School of Human Kinetics,
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada, Centre for Technology Research and Innovation (CETRI), Limassol,Cyprus

Introduction: Heat exposure is known to affect productivity in some occupations, yet there is limited evidence regarding its effects in agriculture jobs. In order to develop a method for evaluating productivity loss and address heat exposure levels in agriculture, we assessed potential links between ambient temperature and irregular work breaks (IWB) during vine harvesting.

Methods: This study has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement No 668786. Six vine harvesting workers [(four males: 40.8±11.6 years), (two females: 39.5±13.4 years)] were monitored during two consecutive full work shifts (16 working hours) in Cyprus. Mean skin temperature (Tsk) was calculated from four sites
(forearm, chest, thigh, leg), environmental data were recorded using a weather station, while IWB were recorded via video. IWB time was considered any unprescribed work cessation determined by worker’s own judgment, not based on specific time intervals or instructions.

Results: Ambient temperature in the shade during the work shifts ranged from 20.4°C to 33.9°C (29.0±4.2°C). Average and maximum Tsk were 34.3±1.6°C and 36.6±0.6°C, respectively. Ambient temperature was strongly related to Tsk (r=0.85, p<0.001). A total of 9.25% of the total working time was spent on IWB. Ambient temperature (31.1±2.8°C vs. 28.6±4.4°C) and Tsk (34.8±1.1°C vs. 34.2±1.6°C) were higher
during IWB than during work time (p<0.05). Also, 0.3% of the time in thermoneutral (≤26°C) conditions, 13.6% of the time in moderately hot (26 to 31°C) conditions, and 15% of the time in hot (>31°C) conditions were spent on IWB (χ2= 37.23, p<0.001). Furthermore, a low yet statistically significant positive relationship was detected between hourly IWB duration and either ambient temperature (r=0.24, p<0.05) or Tsk (r=0.21, p<0.05).

Conclusion: The number of IWB of vine harvesting workers is increased during high ambient temperatures and may significantly compromise productivity.

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