Climate change impacts on workplace heat and labour productivity loss: Thermal monitoring case study in Egypt
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Increased workplace heat in already hot countries as a result of ongoing climate change is expected to result in work productivity losses and have a significant impact on human wellbeing, population health and local, national and regional economies. One of the key regions likely to be hit hardest by such phenomena are hot developing countries. The capacity of working people to carry out activities that require physical work will be particularly affected. Whilst it is commonly believed that indoor workers are protected from excess temperatures by air conditioning, millions of workers in comparatively lower income settings work in unconditioned environments. Furthermore, heat may reduce labour capacity not only during extreme heat episodes ('heat waves') but also during periods of continuous exposure to high, but not 'extreme', temperatures.
This paper offers a brief review of current estimates of baseline and future trends of the geographical distribution of extreme heat in hot regions using the Climate Change Health Impact and Prevention (Climate CHIP) online database, and a summary of the existing literature on the effects of extreme heat on discomfort risk in workplaces. The paper then focuses on the case study of a major urban centre in Egypt. This area was identified as a heat risk 'hotspot' where extreme heat conditions coincide with other potential risk magnifying factors, such as rapid urbanisation. Ongoing climate change trends are further illustrated in Figures 1, 2 and 3 below, which demonstrate the Annual Mean Temperature and two key heat stress indices: the Annual Maximum Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) and the Annual Maximum Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI), as measured in Cairo Airport in the last 3 decades. As can be observed in the graphs, the Annual Mean Temperature in this location has been increasing at a rate of 0.59 oC per decade, whereas the Maximum Wet Bulb Globe Temperature at a rate of 0.46 oC per decade and the Maximum Universal Thermal Climate Index at a rate of 0.61 oC per decade.
This preliminary monitoring study forms part of a larger ongoing thermal monitoring study of workplaces in Egypt. Dry Bulb Air Temperature, Dew Point Temperature and Relative Humidity were measured at 5-minute intervals in 6 locations inside a medium-sized factory building within a large urban settlement in Egypt for a 1-month period of hot weather (from 15th August to 15th September 2013) using non-intrusive Lascar data loggers. This workplace is typical of Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) establishments, from which large international companies commonly source their products. The monitoring data were statistically analysed to investigate the building's thermal response in relation to external climate conditions. Based on the outcome of this monitoring study and by taking into consideration the building fabric characteristics of the factory, potential risk mitigation pathways were explored with a focus on architectural design solutions, such as passive ventilation measures, through the provision of retrofit recommendations.
Figure 1. Annual Mean Temperature (oC shade) in Cairo Airport (1980-2012), Source: Climate CHIP
Figure 2. Annual Maximum Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (oC shade) in Cairo Airport (1980-2012), Source: Climate CHIP
Figure 3. Annual Maximum Universal Thermal Climate Index (oC shade) in Cairo Airport (1980-2012), Source: Climate CHIP