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Integrated inter-sector framework to increase the thermal resilience of European workers in the context of global warming

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - HEAT-SHIELD (Integrated inter-sector framework to increase the thermal resilience of European workers in the context of global warming)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

HEAT-SHIELD is dedicated to improve heat resilience in European workers.This M54 summary shall provide an overview on the work conducted since last report (M36): Based on the series of industry-specific reports (see D3.1-3.6 for industry specific technical reports at www.heat-shield.eu) work in the present period has focused on developing operational Occupational Heat-Action-Plans covering all involved industries with general and scenario-specific considerations) and guidance on single solutions or specific strategies (identified in WP3 and with the formulated policies, implementation issues and feasibility aspects further refined in WP4 – see D 4.1).
To these aims, we have worked on providing information material and guidance targeting groups of defined “end-users” (workers; employers; health- and occupational safety advisors). This specific work as well as all HEAT-SHIELD activities with the overall ambition that “all EU-citizens ranging from the individual worker 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.”
Acknowledging that successful implementation in occupational settings depends on several parameters, we conducted a systematic review that combined evaluation of effectiveness (reduction of thermal stress and/or beneficial performance/productivity) with considerations on sustainability (ecological and economic viability [acquisition costs and running expenses]) and practical feasibility (considering what is possible in scenario-specific outdoor/indoor settings; how it complies with safety requirements such as personal protective equipment and evaluations of how the specific solution is applicable for the worker – easy to integrate in “normal work-procedures”). The scientific background for this work (published in peer-reviewed paper; https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-020-00641-7 ) in combination with additional studies published in peer-reviewed journals on factors including solar radiation, work schedules, heat indices, and advisory characteristics as well as WP3 industry-specific reports have provided the basis for a series of infographics (see www.heat-shield.eu) and tutorial videos as well as information and formulated guidelines tested in WP4 stakeholder meetings (with 5 workshop across 5 different countries and industries; D4.1). In turn, this has contributed to the continued development of heat-warning/advising web portal http://heatshield.zonalab.it/ and continues work on specific Occupational Heat-Action-Plans in the selected five industries (ongoing WP6 evaluation and testing of specific solutions).
HEAT-SHIELD partners have in the current period worked intensively to produce clear (yet balanced, individualized and industry-specific) information on effective, feasible and sustainable solutions. However, WP6 studies, which were to test and evaluate the efficiency of these formulated strategies in the field, have been complicated by the COVID-19 crisis. Primarily, because companies have either been closed or working under tight safety regulations in 2020 spring and summer, we have not able to allow perform field-research and have instead focused on adapting COVID-plans to the workplace, in the context of hot summer conditions, and comply with national regulations. To further account for delays due to COVID, we have pivoted to using questionnaires with several companies who are operating to some degree, in order to assess how our recommended practices have positively benefitted worker health or performance. However, we have requested a one-year extension of the project in order to reach out and disseminate the questionnaires to even more companies and to allow dedicated focus on implementation of occupational Heat-Action-Plans. The 1 year prolongation of HEAT-SHIELD will allow WP6 work to be completed with intended aims. To facilitate implementation, we have also created a consult@heat-shield.eu account (offering free assistance for EU-companies for Occupational Heat-Action-Plan development or specific solutions) and HEAT-SHIELD partners have completed several meetings with local/national stakeholders to identify their needs and make concrete plans for studies in companies (to be conducted in 2021). In relation to the COVID-19 crisis and associated complications for workers and citizens – e.g. on issues related to interaction between heat-stress and personal protective equipment, HEAT-SHIELD also contributed to a jointed WHO-GHHIN guidance document on hot weather and heat-health during the COVID-19 outbreak (https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/environment-and-health/Climate-change/news/news/2020/5/preparing-for-a-long,-hot-summer-with-covid-19) and a peer-reviewed paper on the topic (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23328940.2020.1790971).
HEAT-SHIELD has provided more than 40 peer-reviewed papers already published (see list of papers at https://www.heat-shield.eu/scientific-articles; all available for download). HEAT-SHIELD has also continued with several contributions to international meetings (in present period with symposia lead at ICEE 2019 [International conference on environmental ergonomics in Amsterdam] and ditto to the modified GHINN 2020 forum [originally we were supposed to host this event in Copenhagen, but were forced to convert to shorter series of on-line lectures]). The project has successfully created massive media attention in national media (television and newspapers) and international attention within EU (e.g. https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/why-more-heatwaves-endanger-our-health-and-ability-work.html) and globally (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200616083404.htm).
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.
As outlined above this includes strong focus on information targeting industries and guidance of workers. However, in addition to dissemination activities targeting industries, employers and employees, we also aim for inter-sectoral activities such as interaction with international, national and local stakeholders to draw attentions to the heat-health issues and the potential countermeasures that we have identified (e.g. inputting to the recently released ILO-report “Working on a warmer planet: The impact of heat stress on labour productivity and decent work” - International Labour Office – Geneva, ILO, 2019). In addition this part also include policy-relevant evidence produced by the HEAT-SHIELD project on “prolonged” mitigation strategies. E.g. producing evidence on local effects (NUTS-2 level analyses and identification of heat-wave frequencies for specific EU-regions) based on an advanced meteorological model that allows for evaluating regional heat wave impacts https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10113-020-01625-6) and how these are influenced by climate change. HEAT-SHIELD also aims at providing evidence on solutions that may support/lead to adoption of strategies to prevent further/extreeme rises in the environmental temperature as this indeed is important to prevent further elevation of occupational heat strain.
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