Continuous Monitoring of Individual Exposure in Extreme Thermal Environments: A Participatory Geo-Sensing Study

Authors: Margaret Sugg*, Appalachian State University, Jennifer D Runkle, North Carolina State University, Chris M Fuhrmann, Mississippi State University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Medical and Health Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Public Health, iButton, Climate Variability, Applied climatology, Heat-Health
Session Type: Paper

Climate-related increases in the frequency and intensity of heat events will continue to impact worker health and safety, particularly among workers who spend the majority of their workday outdoors or in high heat environments. Emerging technologies such as “wearable” sensors offer a feasible strategy to physiologically monitor the individual response to heat in the workplace in context of environmental conditions. The objective of this study is to evaluate the spatial-temporal variation of temperature exposure among outdoor workers as well as the occupational, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to individual-level heat exposure. We evaluate how individual-level variability, which is characterized by temperature observations from wearable sensors, relates to large-scale in-situ weather observations. Outdoor workers from three different geographic regions in the southeast were recruited to wear the sensors during a 5-day work period in the summer of 2016 (July-August). There were substantial differences in the individual exposure to temperature depending on the geographic location, time of day, and ambient temperature of the environment where the work was performed. Air temperature observations from automated weather stations in each region were not sufficient in predicting the individual level heat exposure. As wearable technology progresses, real-time temperature health and environmental monitoring at the individual-level across multiple occupational settings will become more feasible and inform targeted heat prevention strategies.

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