Background: Climate change has exacerbated the health effects of high ambient temperatures on occupational health and safety; however, to what extent heat stress can induce workplace injuries and economic costs is poorly studied. This study aimed to quantify the attributable fractions of injury claims and subsequent insurance payouts using data from work-related injury insurance system in Guangzhou, China.
Methods: Individual workers’ injury claims data were collected for the period of 2011-2012, including demographic characteristics and work-related information. Daily maximum wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT, °C) was calculated from meteorological data. To examine the association between WBGT index and work-related injury, we fit a quasi-Poisson regression with distributed lag non-linear model. Then we calculated the numbers of injury claims and costs of insurance compensations attributable to days with WBGT above the heat stress limit according to the national occupational health standards.
Results: There were 9550 work-related injury claims, resulting in an insurance payout of 282.3 million Chinese Yuan. The risks of injury claims increased with rising WBGT. 4.8% (95% eCI: 2.9%-6.9%) of work-related injuries and 4.1% (95% eCI: 0.2%-7.7%) of work-related injury insurance payouts were attributed to heat exposure for WBGT threshold above the heat stress limit. Male workers, those in small enterprises and with low educational attainment were especially sensitive to the effects of heat exposure.
Conclusions: Heat stress can contribute to higher risk of work-related injury and substantial economic costs. Quantified the impacts of injuries and related economic costs should be considered to develop targeted preventive measures in the context of climate change.