Turner heat study shows workers risk “permanent health effects” even on mild days

Image courtesy of Olga Kholiavina/Dreamstime
Turner Construction has tested labourers working at a large data centre project in Kansas City to investigate the effect of temperature on health. The study concluded that those tested were at risk of permanent effects, even when working in cooler than typical summer conditions.

Turner Construction carried out the study with the universities of New Mexico and Indiana, and research consultancy La Isla Network. It involved asking 33 workers to swallow a pill-sized data collection device so their internal temperatures could be measured during a summer’s day.

It was found that 43% of workers experienced a peak core temperature exceeding 100.4°F, with 4% exceeding 101.3°F.

The pilot was conducted in conditions “cooler than (a) typical summer”, according to the lead researchers, and despite the numbers themselves not causing alarm, “if the measured elevations in body temperature were prolonged, permanent health effects could result”.

The study concluded that heat waves could put people at “substantial risk of heat-related health issues”.

The pilot also found that most workers came to jobsite dehydrated.

Monika Serrano, Turner Construction’s resilience project manager, said: “There is a lack of awareness about the serious consequences of extreme heat on our business.

“We were pleasantly surprised we were able to find enough participants. The credit goes to the Turner project team, who were extremely proactive throughout the whole process, and to the subs who shared their time and experience with us.”

Overall, Turner said that the study allowed for “a chance to provide leadership that will help our people and industry stay safe and adapt to a changing world”.

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