Extreme temperatures raise risk of work-related injuries

London: Extreme ambient temperatures increase the risk of occupational accidents, with women appearing to be more vulnerable to cold and men to heat, says a study. This gender difference could be explained by the fact that women have lower sweat rates than men in hot climates.

The youngest workers were the most vulnerable to heat, possibly because they tend to do more physically demanding work, the study said. “In the present context of climate change, these results indicate that public health interventions are needed to protect workers,” said study coordinator Xavier Basagana from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Spain.

For the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the researchers analysed data related to nearly 16 million occupational injuries occurred in Spain, between 1994 and 2013 that resulted in at least a day’s sick leave.

“Exposure to moderate to extreme temperatures may have played a role in over half a million of the workplace injuries that occurred during the study period,” said lead author of the study Erica Martinez from ISGlobal.

The analysis found that, on average, some 60 temperature-related injuries leading to at least one lost workday occurred each day, accounting for 2.7 per cent of all work-related injuries in Spain.

Extremes of cold and heat increased the risk of injury by 4 and 9 per cent respectively, the study said.

The most common types of injuries studied were bone fractures and superficial injuries — the injuries which do not affect underlying muscles and organs and mostly affects the skin.

“This suggests that the underlying mechanism could be related to impaired concentration or judgement, which would affect occupational safety,” Martinez noted.