Overview/summary for Tourism
The tourism sector employs more than 10 million people in EU being the third largest socio-economic sector with wide-ranging impact on economic growth, employment, and social development. The major industries of tourism sector are; (i) accommodation and (ii) food and beverage services, which covers a wide range of different businesses, including hotels, apartments, restaurants, fast-food takeaways and cafes.
The tourism sector is characterized by high job demands as well as prolonged exposure to the heat and long work shifts. The long exposure of tourism workers to extreme heat can contribute to discomfort, inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, weakness, headaches and heat stroke. Apart from health-related issues, heat stress can affect seriously worker’s productivity with negative impact on economic growth.
At greater risk for heat stress are the workers who are exposed directly in the sun (especially in summer months) such as waiters/waitresses serving outdoor and those who are occupied in kitchen facilities and laundry staff, given the fact that extreme heat can be produced from machinery and cooking equipment, worsened by poor ventilation. For instance, temperatures in the kitchen can sometimes exceed 35°C. Additionally, the combination of high temperatures with the exposure to steam and cooking fumes can cause a thermal discomfort to workers.
The HEAT-SHIELD project has recognized the need to generate research evidence and implement sustainable intervention techniques to reduce workplace heat stress to prevent health and productivity of tourism workers. Therefore, in the context of this project, field studies on tourism workers are being conducted to address their needs and exposure characteristics in order to identify ways to mitigate the corresponding heat stress. Parameters potentially affecting the thermal balance of tourism workers will be identified to provide an overview of good practices at both the policy and workplace levels.
To avoid excessive heating and preventing negative effects on health and productivity of tourism workers, a combination of various control methods such as engineering and administrative controls, and personal protective equipment are suggested:
Ventilation, such as air conditioning or local air-cooling may be helpful. Especially in food business kitchens, the most effective way to reduce excessive heat exposure is displacement ventilation.
Reduce humidity by using air conditioning and dehumidifiers, and by diminishing the sources of moisture.
Wear appropriate clothing with breathable material that allows the airflow and helps your skin breathe.
Hats and caps should be provided to protect the head from sun radiation, when workers work outdoors.
Ensure access to cold drinking water (or slush ice to maximize cooling).
When possible take breaks in cool, shaded areas with as much natural air flow as possible.
Educate the workers on the hazards of working in the heat and the benefits of implementing proper controls and work practices.