Background Excess heat and inadequate sanitation facilities are not uncommon workplace exposures in developing nations. For the millions of women entering different trades, the extent of the burden of occupational health and psychological risks that are unique to women is unknown/under-reported. There is a need to generate such epidemiological evidence to develop protective adaptation strategies and policies.
Methods A cross-sectional study conducted with 442 female workers from different occupational sectors collected quantitative data on heat exposures and physiological indicators of heat strain. A structured questionnaire captured self-reported health implications of heat stress and workers perceptions on lack of sanitary facilities at workplace. Statistical R-tool was used and associations were determined using Chi-square test and Odds ratio.
Results Workplace heat exposures exceeded the threshold limit value for safe manual work for 65% women (Average WBGT of 28.7°C±3.1°C) and 94% study participants reported adverse heat-related health symptoms (x-squared = 8.3392, p-value = 0.0039). The rise in Core Body Temperature was significantly associated with high-heat exposures (t = 2.7986, p-value = 0.007193). 48% of the participants had no/limited access to toilets at their workplaces which was significantly associated with the prevalence of genitourinary issues (x-squared = 11.8193, p-value = 0.0005862). The significant association with increased odds of women developing genitourinary issues without access to toilets (OR = 2.089, CI: –1.3838–3.1444, p = 0.0004) stands as evidence and reemphasizes that fact that there is a need to design and implement appropriate workplace interventions and facilities to protect workers’ health.
Conclusion Women form the basis of the economy in informal sectors in developing nations are at risk of developing health issues due to exposures to heat and inadequate sanitation. Interventions to prevent occupational heat stress and bringing about awareness on importance of welfare and sanitation facilities to the management will not only ensure health and safety of the women but also attract and empower women workers and enhance productivity.
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