Leadership. Strategy. Innovation.

How can heat stress decrease workers’ productivity?

As climate change continues to cause erratic atmospheric shifts, temperatures nationwide have reached record-high levels. In Connecticut, this month’s nearly 100-degree heat wave has lasted for at least three consecutive days. These extreme conditions can lower workers’ productivity and even endanger their lives.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns of heat stress at work, specifically for workers in outdoor sites (agriculture, construction and landscaping) or those in confined indoor spaces (warehousing, manufacturing and iron or steelmaking).

Heat stress occurs when the body stores excessive heat that it cannot get rid of. It makes workers feel uncomfortable and less productive.

Ways heat stress can cause lowered productivity

Heat stress can spiral into heat stroke, cramps and rashes. When this happens, workers tend to:

  • Feel nauseous
  • Become irritable
  • Lose their desire to drink
  • Struggle with concentration
  • Have difficulty exerting force in physically demanding tasks

Depending on other causal factors, like workers’ age, weight, medical conditions and level of acclimatization or training for improving heat tolerance, heat stress can also lead to workers taking longer breaks to rest, hydrate and recover. In worst the cases, workers would rather skip work than endure brutal heat.

OSHA requires employers to create and implement policies to combat heat stress. Some of OSHA’s standards include rescheduling jobs for cooler times of day, ordering mandatory protective gear and installing ventilation or air conditioning systems.

Boosting productivity

Workers who feel safe and comfortable at work not only have boosted morale but also productivity. Thus, employers must protect their workers from fatal work practices and environments. Those hurt on the job due to heat stress must urgently inform their supervisors and seek medical attention. Their legal counsel can walk them through the state’s workers’ compensation system to learn more about their rights and responsibilities.