Engineering body warns about the climate impact on industry
By Anders Lorenzen
The UK engineering body the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has in a report released on Wednesday warned about the climate impacts facing the Engineering industry.
The report was launched last week at IMechE’s central London location, only a stones-throw away from the UK Parliament, central to acting on many of the recommendations in the report. The report entitled ‘Adapting Industry to Withstand Rising Temperatures and Future Heatwaves’ laid out that with global temperatures rising to record levels, employers urgently need to develop strategies to protect workers from excessive heat or else they will face a loss in productivity as heat stress and dehydration can have an impact on decision making and increase employee risk-taking.
It also emphasised the importance of preparing for a warmer world by for instance ensuring buildings and equipment continue to operate efficiently in the context of climactic challenges, which will require an update to existing infrastructure, a revamping of design codes and safety policies as well as committing to net-zero outcomes, sustainability and resilience.
Too hot to work
IMechE calls on guidance related to heat impacts on workforces to be updated urgently in order to encourage companies to implement needed changes to their workspaces. The report authors pointed to a significant gap in work health laws as minimum workplace temperatures are enshrined in UK law for the indoor workplace, but there are no upper-temperature limits. The report states’ thermal comfort is very important in a workplace and if it is not achieved morale, productivity, health and safety will all likely deteriorate. People need safe spaces to work and be productive.
It highlighted the safety risks of working in too-hot environments explaining that if people feel too hot they are more likely to ignore safety regulations and take risks such as not wearing PPE properly. It added to this that a worker’s ability to concentrate on a given task will also be weakened in warmer temperatures due to decreased cognitive function.
It says the main challenge will be to adapt existing building stock to warmer temperatures, which hit a new record of over 40 degrees last summer in the UK.
In a separate report released in March from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), it was made clear that the UK had made little progress in making the adaptation needed to fully prepare for climate change risks.