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Influence of occupational heat stress on labour productivity – a case study from Chennai, India

Jeremiah Chinnadurai (Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India)
Vidhya Venugopal (Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India)
Kumaravel P (Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India)
Paramesh R (Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 8 February 2016

1453

Abstract

Purpose

Raise in temperatures due to climate change is likely to increase the heat stress in occupations that are physically exerting and performed outdoors which might potentially have adverse health and productivity consequences. The purpose of this paper is to estimate the productivities in construction work under the influence of heat stress using the predicted mean vote (PMV) index.

Design/methodology/approach

Field studies were conducted during May 2014 which is summer time in Chennai. Continuous heart rate of workers and wet bulb globe temperature measurements are conducted for workers engaged in different jobs in construction. Metabolic rates and the workload of the workers from heart rate were calculated using the ISO method 8996 and the PMV values are calculated using the tool developed by Malchaire based on the method ISO 7730. Direct observations and personal interviews were conducted to substantiate the productivity estimations.

Findings

The results showed that workers working outdoors with moderate and heavy workload exceeded the threshold limit value of 28°C and had adverse productivity impacts (18-35 per cent productivity loss), whereas the workers engaged in light indoor work was not affected by heat stress and consequent productivity losses. The productivity estimations using the PMV index is found to be statistically significant for three types of construction works (Pearson correlation coefficient value of −0.78) and also correlated well with the observations and self-reported productivities of the workers.

Originality/value

The method used in this paper provides a scientific and reliable estimation of the productivities which may benefit the industry to set realistic project completion goals in hot weather and also implement interventions and policies to protect workers’ health. Developing adaptive strategies and implementing control measures are the need of the hour to protect worker’s health and economic losses in the face of climate change.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr R.K. Elangovan, Director, Regional Labour Institute, Chennai for his support in this study and his efforts to conduct this study at a national level. The support provided by Professor Kjellstrom and Dr Lemke for their technical inputs and encouragement is acknowledged. The authors are very thankful to Department of EHE, Sri Ramachandra University for providing the platform to conduct this work.

Citation

Chinnadurai, J., Venugopal, V., P, K. and R, P. (2016), "Influence of occupational heat stress on labour productivity – a case study from Chennai, India", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 65 No. 2, pp. 245-255. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-08-2014-0121

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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