Extreme heat is a threat to human health and substantial evidence suggests that the health impacts of heat will increase as the duration, frequency, and intensity of heat waves rise due to climate change. Workers are particularly at risk in hot weather, due to their limited ability to control heat exposure in occupational settings.
Data access has been approved for a student thesis which aims to quantify the burden of heat exposure on workers in BC and identify factors that place some subgroups of workers at higher risk. The study is being carried out by Xiaocong Guo under the supervision of Associate Professor Dr. Christopher McLeod, Head of Occupational and Environmental Health in the School of Population and Public Health at University of British Columbia, and Co-Director of the Partnership for Work, Health and Safety.
Funded by a WorkSafeBC Research Training Award and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Doctoral Research Award, the project’s findings will be aligned with WorkSafeBC’s mandate to identify and prioritize at-risk workers to inform evidence-based interventions in worksites and prompt refinement of policies and best practices to promote occupational health and safety in BC in a changing climate.
“Evidence to illustrate the effects of extreme heat on occupational health in the Canadian context is sparse,” says Ms Guo. “The identification of workers susceptible to heat exposure can inform evidence-based prevention and compensation policies, and improve prevention interventions on worksites, particularly targeting at-risk workers.”
For the project administrative health data sets, WorkSafeBC data and meteorological data sets will be linked to evaluate the burden of occupational heat-related risks in BC and identify factors that place specific subgroups of workers at higher risk. The project aims to characterize the association between heat and multiple health outcomes of (a) heat illness and (b) workplace injury among workers aged 15 and over in BC.
The study will also identify how the risks of ambient heat on multiple health outcomes of (a) heat illness and (b) workplace injury among workers aged 15 and greater in BC are distributed across worker demographics, occupations, industry sectors, and pre-existing chronic health conditions (e.g., cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases).
Findings from this study will give insight into comparable studies in other jurisdictions across Canada and the world to support a healthy workplace.