Conference spotlights heat stress

Update: December, 05/2014 - 09:35

HOA BINH (VNS) — Do Ngoc Khue looks at the thermometer on the notice board and switches on a spray that cools its roof top if the temperature is too high for workers.

Khue, head of Security and Safety at the Da Nang-based Chemical Industrial Co. Central Mine Central (MICCO), said that workers in his factory worked in hot environments and were exposed to extreme heat, which could lead to illness.

"Some years ago a worker got dizzy at work and was taken to hospital for treatment," he said. "We became very worried when the worker said that the hot environment made him tired and faint," he added.

That was when the company's leaders realised that they should do something to protect and reduce heat stress for its employees.

"Our workers are provided with training on heat-stress resilience. The most important thing is that their awareness of the problem has been raised, enabling us to protect them," Khue added.

"If our company's solution against heat stress is applied in all enterprises, workers will have a better working environment and better occupational health, which in turn will increase their working efficiency and their company's development," he said.

Khue shared his thoughts at a conference, entitled Building heat stress resilience among Da Nang's most vulnerable workers, which was held by the Centre for Community Health and Development (Cohed) last week.

It was aimed at developing a national agenda to protect workers from the effect of climate change, particularly in the context of global temperature increases.

Speaking about the policies on heat-stress resilience for workers exposed to heat, Deputy Director General of Work Safety Department under the Ministry of Labour Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Nguyen Anh Tho, said that 77.5 per cent of companies in Viet Nam did not have field nurses or health-and-safety personnel.

"Work safety has not been paid enough attention by enterprise leaders, especially leaders of small enterprises and small and medium enterprises, which account for 95 per cent of businesses in our country," Tho said.

"Workers in traditional craft villages, including those work in brick production and garments factories, have to work outdoor for hours daily," the Deputy Director said.

"The most important thing is that the company leaders must care of their workers' occupational health - and the workers must know how to protect themselves in extreme working conditions," he added.

"If the workers' health is good, they can surely work better, which can contribute to an enterprises' growth," Tho said.

A director of the Centre for Community Health, Dao Thi Mai Hoa, said that its project for heat-stress resilience had been piloted in three factories in the central city of Da Nang, including MICCO.

"Vulnerable workers at risk of heat stress include outdoor workers and workers in hot environments, such as construction workers, miners or those who are more than 65 years old," Hoa said. "Prevention of heat stress for workers is very important. Employers should provide training to workers for them to understand how it affects their occupational health and safety, and how it can be prevented," Hoa said.

Hoa said that there were types of heat stress, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope and heat rash. He added that workers who suffered from heat stress must be treated immediately.

MOLISA's Tho said that to protect workers, policies on prevention of occupational health must be adopted. "More enterprises must be required to follow work safety regulations for workers, including workers in farming, fishing sectors or workers who do not have labour contracts in private enterprises," Tho said.

"It is not difficult for enterprises' leaders to reduce heat stress in workers. They can plant more trees or install a spray machine to cool the factory's roof like MICCO. I am sure that this will be very helpful for workers' health," she added. Comments on the draft national agenda for heat-stress resilience were collected at the conference. — VNS