The Social Implications of Occupational Heat Stress on Migrant Workers Engaged in Public Construction: A Case Study from Southern India

By Vidhya Venugopal, Jeremiah Chinnadurai, Rebekah Lucas, Vennila Vishwanathan, Ajit Rajiva and Tord Kjellstrom.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 29, 2016 Free Download

Health deterioration due to multiple exposures to hazards is not uncommon among construction workers. Migrant workers contribute a lion’s share (~79%) to public construction in India and about two-thirds of the migrant workforce lives in temporary habitats with minimal basic amenities. The implications of occupational heat stress on the health and social lives of the migrant workers engaged in construction of public metro railway was explored. One hundred and forty-two migrant workers were engaged in the study after obtaining informed consent. Quantitative data on environmental heat exposures and qualitative information on the impacts of heat stress on health, productivity losses, and social lives via interviews was collected. Seventy-seven percent of workers reported a range of health impacts and 68 percent reported productivity losses and lost wages due to heat. Seventy-six percent of women workers complained of significant impacts on their social lives in the form of disruptions in children education, addictions, and inability to care for family due to frequent sickness. Women also reported that heat stress, plus lack of access to toilets, further aggravated urinary tract infections and kidney related illnesses. Unsanitary living conditions and competition for limited resources in habitats were reported to increase theft and social violence among adults/children. In an increasingly warmer global climate and an increasing constructed demand, stronger policies to prevent morbidity/mortality among vulnerable migrant workers in the construction sector is imperative. Better health, literacy rates, and decreased crime statistics among migrant community are potential positive implications of protective policies.

Keywords: Public Construction, Migrant Workers, Human Habitats, Social Impact, Occupational Heat Stress

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 7, Issue 2, June 2016, pp.25-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 29, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 497.690KB)).

Prof. Vidhya Venugopal

Professor, Head, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Porur, Chennai, India

Jeremiah Chinnadurai

Research Scientist, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India

Dr. Rebekah Lucas

Post-doctoral Fellow, Centre for Global Health, Umea University, Umea, Norrland, Sweden

Vennila Vishwanathan

Research Associate, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, Not Listed or Not Applicable, India

Ajit Rajiva

Environmental Health, Indian Institute of Public Health,, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Prof. Tord Kjellstrom

Senior Professor, Centre for Global Health, Umea University, Sweden, Nelson, Mapua, New Zealand