Pioneering study reveals heat stress risks for construction workers

Pioneering study reveals heat stress risks for construction workers

A groundbreaking study led by Exercise Science Professor Fabiano Amorim from the College of Education & Human Sciences has shed light on the severe risks of heat stress faced by construction workers.

Amorim and his team, which included Jonathan Specht, a Ph.D. student from UNM, and collaborators from Indiana University and La Isla Network, embarked on this study to fill the gap in data concerning construction work, an area previously underexplored compared to agricultural settings. Their research, conducted in Kansas City, MO, with the support of Turner Construction and other organizations, focused on measuring workers' internal body temperatures and the environmental conditions contributing to heat stress.

“One of the ways construction companies try to get workers to beat the heat is by setting an early start time,” explains Amorim, highlighting a common practice among roofers who begin work as early as 3:30 AM to avoid peak heat. Despite such precautions, the study found that a significant portion of workers still experienced dangerously high internal body temperatures, underscoring the inadequacy of current safety measures.

With over 60% of workers arriving on-site dehydrated, and despite efforts to encourage water intake, the study reveals a critical need for more effective hydration strategies before and during work shifts. "The safety of workers depends on the environmental temperature, the intensity of the work, and the clothing and equipment worn," Amorim pointed out, stressing the complex interplay of factors that contribute to heat stress.

This research is crucial as it represents the first study in the U.S. to focus on the core temperatures of construction workers, providing vital data that could inform new regulations and protective standards. Amorim's findings emphasize the urgency of developing and implementing more effective measures to safeguard construction workers from the dangers of heat stress, especially as global temperatures continue to rise. To learn more, click here.

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