Heat stress and adaptive capacity of low-income outdoor workers and their families in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam
As global average temperatures rise, heat-related illnesses are emerging as a major health issue, with extreme temperatures being a leading cause of weather-related fatalities in many cities. Heat stress is a particular concern in outdoor occupational settings in developing nations such as Vietnam, where access to cooling systems is limited.
This study explores the impact of heat stress on unregistered migrant and outdoor workers, and examines the factors influencing their adaptive capacity. The study employed both qualitative and quantitative research methods, including questionnaires, in-depth interviews and policy reviews.
The study finds that heat exposure in the workplace is prevalent and serious, with the vast majority of workers reporting very hot conditions in the workplace. This is compounded by the fact that the provision of adaptive measures by employers is limited, leaving workers to find their own solutions. This is especially the case for poor female, freelance, migrant outdoor workers, street vendors and workers in medium and small private enterprises, including construction workers, stone workers and other outdoor occupations. These groups tend to be among the poorest, with limited access to public services, local social support programmes or healthcare provision. Their knowledge of adaptive and coping mechanisms to deal with heat stress is also limited. At home, they employ coping rather than adaptive measures. The legislative framework to regulate occupational hygiene and safety in the workplace and to protect workers’ health is comprehensive. However, its implementation is challenging.
Findings from this research support the application of interventions by a range of actors, including government guidance measures for employers, improvement of health services in the treatment of heat stress, and capacity development among the outdoor working population to build their knowledge and awareness of, and resilience against, heat stress.