Study shows increasing temperatures pose risks for outdoor workers
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For the first time this year, triple-digit temperatures are expected in the Las Vegas valley.
The forecast calls for Sunday and Monday to reach 100 degrees. That’s a 30-degree increase from a week ago and about 20 degrees higher than normal for this time of year.
Las Vegas is one of the hottest cities in North America and one of the fastest-warming cities in the United States. Since 1970, Las Vegas’ annual temperature has warmed an average of 5.9%, according to Climate Central. On July 10, 2021, Las Vegas tied its all-time high temperature of 117 degrees for the fifth time and other heat records were also broken last summer.
If predictions hold true, this summer could also be a record-breaker. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted June and July will be hotter and drier than normal. That could be a risk for people who work outdoors.
Temperature and Precipitation November 2021 to October 2022
A new study involving scientists from Desert Research Institute (DRI), Nevada State College, and the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities examined the growing threat heat poses to workforce health in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
The study compared data for on-the-job injuries and illnesses for the years 2011-2018 with heat index data for each city.
“We expected to see a correlation between high temperatures and people getting sick – and we found that there was a very clear trend in most cases,” said lead author Erick Bandala, Ph.D., assistant research professor of environmental science at DRI. “Surprisingly, this type of analysis hadn’t been done in the past, and there are some really interesting social implications to what we learned.”
“Our data indicate that the increases in heat are happening alongside increases in the number of nonfatal occupational injuries across these three states,” Bandala said. “Every year we are seeing increased heat waves and higher temperatures, and all of the people who work outside in the streets or in gardens or agriculture are exposed to this.”
The study also found there was an increase in women being affected over the years. Scientists said that could be due to more women entering the workforce or “hormonal factors and cycles that can be exacerbated during exposure to extreme heat.”
The research also found workers who had a longer length of service with employers had a higher incidence of heat-related injuries or illnesses. Those at greatest risk had worked more than five years outdoors.
The authors of the study hope the results they uncovered will be useful to protect outdoor workers.
“This study underscores the importance of and the need for the work the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is doing to adopt a regulation to address heat illness,” stated Nancy Brune, Ph.D., study co-author and senior fellow at the Guinn Center.
“As temperatures continue to rise and heat-related illnesses and deaths continue to rise, the need for public policies to alleviate health and economic impacts is growing,” Bandala said.