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Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HEAT-SHIELD (Integrated inter-sector framework to increase the thermal resilience of European workers in the context of global warming)


The HEAT-SHIELD project (EU-Horizon 2020 - Grant agreement no. 668786) is dedicated to improve heat resilience in European workers and this M36 status summary shall provide an overview on the work conducted in alignment with our defined mission: To provide expertise to the...


The HEAT-SHIELD project (EU-Horizon 2020 - Grant agreement no. 668786) is dedicated to improve heat resilience in European workers and this M36 status summary shall provide an overview on the work conducted in alignment with our defined mission: To provide expertise to the European community ranging from the individual citizen to public and private policy makers to implement methods and procedures that may secure health and productivity in the face of present and future climatic heat scenarios.
Based on our recent systematic review in Lancet Planetary Health covering 111 studies and 447 million workers from more than 40 occupations ( it is evident that occupational heat strain has important health consequences and should be recognized as a public health problem. In addition to exhaustive literature reviews, we have conducted several field and lab studies as well as advanced thermo-physiological analyses (see industry specific technical reports at to identify industry specific issues and feasible solutions to mitigate negative impacts on productivity and benefit health for the heat-exposed workers. For outdoor industries (construction and agriculture), we observed a direct relation between elevated environmental heat stress and loss of productivity. For indoor workers, the impact is more complex and depends on the interaction between industrial heat production, ability to cool the working areas (poor for large manufacturing halls and kitchens in the tourism industry, but higher for the transport sector) and the workers day-to-day recovery/rehydration.

Work performed

Independent of industry type we observe a very high prevalence of dehydration and we provide evidence that hypohydration in combination with hyperthermia has marked effects on both cognitively dominated functions and skilled motor performance ( hence impacting workers performance across many industries. With intervention studies (field and lab based) focused on optimized/planned hydration, we provide evidence that preventing/limiting dehydration may half the loss of productivity. In European setting and for industries such as construction and agriculture, this can lower the loss of effective working time from almost one day per worker per week to less than 5%. Furthermore, in relation to work safety, our studies indicate that improved hydration may half the risk of making mistakes (and a recent review of observational field studies by our consortium signify that better evidence to support establishment health/prevention policies is needed – see or Am J Ind Med. 2019 Jan 23. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22946). Individualized clothing and cooling solutions (adjusting wind speed at local workstations or providing cooling spaces/options for workers during breaks) and (re)scheduling of tasks/work hours have also been identified as effective and feasible strategies to be considered across all industries with high heat-exposure.
Although, awareness of adequate hydration and other prevention strategies are high amongst Europeans (see recent articles by Pogačar et al 2017 and 2019 here the observed failure to implement solutions call for actions. We will therefore in the upcoming and 2020 summer (the next seasonal heat periods) run dedicated dissemination campaigns (via our heat-warning/advising web portal and through communication/dissemination via public health advisors, media and supporting stakeholders) targeting both employers and employees. This will involve translation of our technical reports with identified solution into infographics on how, why and when – aiming at assisting private, public and self-organized workers in implementing strategies/scenario-specific solutions.

Final results

HEAT-SHIELD works with the vision that:
All Europeans have access to state-of-the art knowledge and expert support to address current and future climatic heat scenarios and it is our aim that public as well as private policy makers will take efficient actions to minimize the detrimental effects of elevated environmental temperatures.
From the interaction with employers/employees (i.e. end-users of our knowhow) and engagement of stakeholders with shared interest in improving heat-health actions, it is clear that information needs to be stratified (per industry/area and with exemplification of scenario-specific solutions – aiming at relevant information reaching the receiver at relevant times and with the specific benefits emphasized and explained).
In addition to the dissemination activities targeting employers and employees (that already have involved interaction via more than 10 local meeting with managers, workers, representatives for labour organizations and health authorities), we have also been dedicated to facilitate international inter-sectoral collaboration and the Heat-Shield project has organized symposia at international scientific conferences (PPTR 2016 and 2018 in Ljubljana and Split, Bio-meteorological conference in Durham in 2017) and participated in the WHO-WMO spearheaded GHHIN network (Global Heat-Health-Information-Network meeting in Hong-Kong 2018) and WHO-Europe working group meetings (Bonn 2018 and local South East-Europe meeting in Skopje 2018). In accordance with our dissemination strategy, this interaction with both international, national and local stakeholders shall provide the backbone for broad communication and attentions to the heat-health issues and potential countermeasures that we have identified and continuously will work to optimized and facilitate the implementation of in each of the industries.

Another line of evidence produced by the Heat-Shield project relates to prolonged mitigation strategies. Aiming at providing solutions or policy-relevant evidence that may support (lead to) adoption of strategies to prevent further climate change related rises in the environmental temperature and therefore lessen the associated elevation of occupational heat strain. E.g. producing policy-relevant evidence on the economic consequences of lost productivity (currently and with various emission scenarios – two papers submitted to Nature Climate Change and Nature letters) and analyses of the potentials for lowering air conditioning use/cost in the transport industry (see - technical report 7). It is quite, clear that excessive rise in the average global temperature and associated higher frequency of heat waves (globally and over Europe) will make heat-health prevention more complicated and therefore both the short-term advice/mitigation solution and the prolonged (political driven) strategies to lower greenhouse gas emission are of importance – and accordingly areas that the present project will pursue/push to improve via providing policy-relevant evidence as well as assigning concrete sustainable solutions.
With the above described accomplishments and a continued vision to work for improved heat-health for workers in a warming world, the Heat-Shield project will continue its actions and ambitions on providing policy-relevant evidence and facilitate implementation of feasible sustainable solutions to mitigate negative impacts of occupational heat stress.

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