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Heat Wave Workforce Report: Safety, Income, and Career Concerns Revealed

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
Attorney
August 16, 2023  ·  1 min read
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Key takeaways

  • On average, 70% of heat-exposed workers experience heat exhaustion at work.
  • Nearly 1 in 6 heat-exposed workers report employers are not implementing extreme heat safety measures. Outdoor workers are more likely than indoor workers to say so.
  • 1 in 2 heat-exposed workers lose income due to reduced work during heat waves.
  • Overall, 57% of heat-exposed workers are considering changing careers due to the adverse working conditions caused by heat waves; 58% of indoor workers and 55% of outdoor workers are considering changing careers.

In the wake of another scorching heat wave, workers face the physical, mental, and financial repercussions of extreme heat. To learn more about working conditions amid heat waves, we surveyed 1,006 workers regularly exposed to extreme heat conditions about safety measures, workload, and the impact of working in the heat. Are employers taking necessary measures to mitigate the heat? Are heat waves impacting workloads and income? Read on to find out and learn how workers are surviving heat waves.

Heat Wave Graphic 1

Key takeaways

  • Nearly 1 in 6 heat-exposed workers says employers are not implementing extreme heat safety measures. Outdoor workers (18%) are more likely than indoor workers (13%) to say so.
  • 42% of outdoor workers report severe negative mental health effects from extreme heat; 28% of indoor workers report the same.
  • Overall, 29% of workers experience a severe decrease in job satisfaction during heat waves. More specifically, 37% of outdoor workers and 24% of indoor workers feel severely less satisfied.
  • Overall, 31% of workers experience a severe loss in productivity during heat waves, including 37% of outdoor workers and 28% of indoor workers.
  • 44% of outdoor workers and 33% of indoor workers experience severely heightened stress levels in extreme heat.
  • 2 in 3 heat-exposed workers said heat waves negatively affect their sleep.
  • When asked what employers are doing to ensure worker safety in extreme heat, respondents offered the following responses:Providing free, cool water (51%)Encouraging or allowing rest breaks periodically (41%)Monitoring workplace temperature and humidity (36%)Offering shaded rest areas (36%)Allowing flexible work schedules during heat waves (35%)Adjusting workload and tasks to minimize heat stress (33%)Educating staff to identify heat stress indicators (33%)Allowing time to acclimate to the heat (28%)Supplying appropriate heat-protective gear (27%)Supplying health programs for heat-related illnesses (26%)
Heat Wave Graphic 2

Key takeaways

  • 1 in 2 heat-exposed workers lose income due to reduced work during heat waves; indoor workers (54%) are more likely than outdoor workers (42%) to lose income.
  • On average, heat-exposed workers experience a 20% income drop due to reduced hours during heat waves.
  • 71% of heat-exposed workers in New England are losing income due to heat-related reductions in work hours, the most of any U.S. region. Only 39% of heat-exposed workers in East North Central are losing income, the least of any region.
  • Overall, 70% of heat-exposed workers have experienced heat exhaustion at work, including 73% of outdoor workers and 68% of indoor workers.
  • 86% of heat-exposed workers in New England have experienced heat exhaustion at work, the most of any U.S. region.
  • 56% of heat-exposed workers in the Middle Atlantic have experienced heat exhaustion at work, the least of any region.
  • 57% of heat-exposed workers are considering changing careers due to the adverse working conditions caused by heat waves, with 58% of indoor workers and 55% of outdoor workers considering changing careers.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 heat-exposed workers believes President Biden’s new initiative to implement a heat-related illness tracking system would be ineffective.

Rising above the heat

With an average of 70% of heat-exposed workers battling heat exhaustion, employers must take steps to ensure worker safety during extreme heat. Passing more extensive heat safety regulations, closely monitoring workers on the job, and providing financial assistance for loss of work can help American workers stay healthy and secure during heat waves. As we prioritize worker well-being, workers can feel safer and be more productive while enduring extreme heat.

Methodology 

For this campaign, we surveyed 1,006 workers regularly exposed to extreme heat conditions. Among them, 65% worked indoors, and 35% worked outdoors.

About Atticus

Atticus helps Americans in a crisis access aid from the government and insurance companies. Their in-house legal team, client advocates, and a network of law firms has advised thousands on workers’ compensation and disability benefits.

Fair use statement

Do you know workers who are struggling to survive the heat waves? Feel free to share this article for noncommercial purposes only; we ask that you link back to this article so readers can access our full findings and methodology.

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Sarah Aitchison

Attorney

Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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