Impact of environmental thermal stress on workers’ health and productivity: intervention strategies and development of an integrated weather-climatic and epidemiological heat health warning system for various occupational sectors (WORKLIMATE)
According to recent estimates, about 30% of the world population is currently exposed to particularly critical hot conditions for health for at least 20 days a year and this percentage is projected to increase in the coming years even if greenhouse gas emissions will tend to decrease. Workers, especially those who spend most of their activities outdoors, primarily in the agricultural and construction sectors, are among the most exposed to the effects of heat and in general to all atmospheric phenomena. The aim of the project is to deepen, especially through the INAIL injury database, the knowledge on the effect of environmental thermal stress conditions on workers (in particular heat), with specific attention to the estimation of the social costs of injuries at work. Organizational solutions and useful operational procedures in different occupational fields (or tasks), currently not yet available, will also be proposed through the organization of ad hoc case studies in selected companies in the areas of central Italy, a survey on the perception of risk linked to exposure to extreme temperatures will carried out too. An integrated weather-climatic and epidemiological heat health warning system, specific for the occupational sector, will be developed. The heat health warning system will consist of a web forecasting platform and a web app that will provide personalized forecasts based on the individual characteristics of workers and those of the work environment (work in the sun or in shade areas). The project products will be enhanced and made available by the Italian Physical Agents Platform (PAF) in order to provide concrete and operational support helpful not only for workers but for all actors involved in the occupational prevention and protection.
The project will go on for 2 years (it started on June 15th 2020)
Institute of BioEconomy (IBE) – National Research Council
Principal Investigator: Morabito Marco
Institution: National Research Council – Institute of BioEconomy (IBE)
Internal Operating Unit of the INAIL Research Department
Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Epidemiology and Hygiene- National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (INAIL), Rome, Italy
Alessandro Marinaccio e Michela Bonafede
Project partners and coordinators of the Units involved:
- Institute of BioEconomy (IBE) – National Research Council – Principal Investigator Marco Morabito
- Epidemiology Unit, Department of Prevention, Central Tuscany Local Health Authority, Florence, Italy – Person in charge Miram Levi
- Physical Agents Sector, Regional Public Health Laboratory, Siena, Italy – Person in charge Iole Pinto
- Department of Epidemiology Lazio Regional Health Service, ASL ROMA 1, Rome, Italy – Person in charge Paola Michelozzi e Francesca de’Donato
- Tuscany Region, LaMMA Consortium, Weather Forecaster and Researcher at Laboratory of Monitoring and Environmental Modelling for Sustainable Development, Sesto Fiorentino, Florence, Italy – Persons in charge Bernardo Gozzini e Daniele Grifoni
The Project is organized into 5 Work Packages divided into various activities:
Work Package 1: Epidemiological analysis for the social costs’ estimation of injuries at work related to extreme temperatures.
- Estimation of social costs due to occupational exposure to extreme temperatures (e.g. absences, disabilities, early death and productivity loss) and literature review available on the topic.
- Methodology definition for the estimation of workers exposed to extreme temperatures through the review of the existing literature and the reconnaissance of the available national archives.
- Identification of individual heat vulnerability factors (chronic diseases, demographic factors, drug use) applicable in the workplace and definition of ad hoc prevention material and information to be disclosed during heat alerts.
- Creation of a prototype model of an observatory of events attributable to critical thermal conditions in the workplace by creating a repository for collecting information from the press or other sources. The use of a web application will allow the definition of a set of queries and the periodic sending of summary e-mails (digest e-mails) with references to articles published on web newspaper.
Work Package 2: Local weather and behavioral monitoring (case studies) to be carried out in selected companies and survey on the risk perception in the occupational sector.
- Weather monitoring to be carried out during the summer period and data analysis in relation to the different outdoor exposure scenarios carried out in a sample of representative companies located in central Italy.
- On the basis of the data collected in point 2.1, an analysis of the effects of procedural and organizational changes on productivity will be carried out (eg change of working hours).
- Identification and / or implementation of a risk perception questionnaire and evaluation of the thermal environment (comfort/ discomfort) to be administered in the workplace during specific test days and a national web survey about thermal risk perception in the workplace.
- Ventilated garments (jackets) will be tested on specific days in the selected companies to evaluate their effect of the heat stress mitigation.
Work Package 3: Identification and development of organizational solutions and operational procedures.
- Define the technological solutions useful in different occupational sectors taking into account the heat risk levels and which could help to counteract the effects of thermal stress and in particular the heat impact.
- Development of operational procedures to counteract the heat effects for specific work sectors and tasks in different exposure scenarios.
Work Package 4: Development of an integrated weather-climatic and epidemiological heat health warning system for different occupational sectors and feasibility study of a cold health warning system.
- Review on the existing heat health warning systems and selection of indicators to be used to assess the impact of heat on workers.
- Evaluation of the performance of the meteorological models that will be used for operational purposes, creation and maintenance of the best operational chain for the duration of the project activities.
- Development of the web forecasting platform integrated with a mobile application.
- Feasibility study of a cold health warning system for the occupational sector.
Work Package 5: Scientific dissemination and presentation of the results to Stakeholders.
- Request for approval of the research activity by the CNR ethics committee and creation of the project website and logo.
- Integration of acquired knowledges and project outputs on the PAF web platform.
- Publications and participation in conferences
- Organization of events, project and dissemination meetings for workers, employers and all those involved in the management of safety at work.
Alessandra Binazzi, Andrea Bogi, Michela Bonafede, Raimondo Buccelli, Tiziano Costantini, Alfonso Crisci, Francesca de’Donato, Simona Del Ferraro, Chiara Di Blasi, Tiziana Falcone, Luca Fibbi, Claudio Gariazzo, Bernardo Gozzini, Valentina Grasso, Daniele Grifoni, Giulia Guerri, Miriam Levi, Alessandro Marinaccio, Alessandro Messeri, Gianni Messeri, Paola Michelozzi, Vincenzo Molinaro, Stefano Monti, Marco Morabito, Antonio Moschetto, Pietro Nataletti, Francesco Pasi, Francesco Picciolo, Emma Pietrafesa, Iole Pinto.