Rising temperatures caused by climate change, combined with wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for certain jobs, can significantly increase heat-related risks for workers, especially in the healthcare sector.
A German study has observed increased body temperatures, heart rates, and skin temperatures in healthcare workers performing work tasks in higher temperatures while wearing PPE. The study used sensors to track how heat and PPE affected workers doing different tasks in various temperatures.
The results showed wearing PPE in warmer conditions raised body temperatures even more than normal and made the heart rate increase as well.
Workers reported feeling tired, sweating a lot, and needing more water when wearing PPE in higher temperatures.
Heat strain happens when the body struggles to handle high temperatures, leading to tiredness, headaches, dizziness, and other health problems.
The researchers emphasise that as climate change continues, there will likely be more hot days indoors, increasing exposure, especially those who do physical work, to heat strain.
‘Adequate cooling provisions or other mitigation strategies should be implemented to reduce potential heat strain. Further research concerning the current and future risks of occupational heat exposure is crucial to develop comprehensive evidence-based policies for protecting [healthcare workers] from the adversities of heat stress.’