The impact of global warming on population health is a growing concern and has been widely discussed. The issue of heat stress disorders and consequent productivity reduction among workers has not yet been widely addressed. Taiwan is an island straddling the Tropic of Cancer in the West Pacific and has both subtropical and tropical climates. As of 2008, the economy of Taiwan accounts for 1.1% of the world gross domestic product at purchasing power parity and is listed as 19th in the world and eighth in Asia, according to International Monetary Fund data.
The aim of this paper is to identify occupations at risk and the potential health impacts of heat on workers in Taiwan.
Historical data relating to meteorology, population, the labour force and economy were obtained from publicly available databases from the Taiwanese government.
Hot seasons with an average maximum temperature above 30°C and relative humidity above 74%, lasting for four to six months from May to October, pose health threats to construction, farming and fishery workers. In particular, populations of ageing farmers and physically overloaded construction workers are the two most vulnerable worker categories in which high temperature impacts on health and productivity.
Currently, regulations and preventive actions for heat relief are difficult to enforce for several reasons, including lack of equipment for measuring environmental conditions, lack of awareness of potential hazards and strict time constraints imposed on workers. There is an urgent need to systematically and comprehensively assess the impact of a warming climate on workers’ health and productivity to provide effective prevention strategies for a better working and living environment in Taiwan.