Title

Social impacts of climate change and occupational heat stress and adaptation strategies of mining workers in Ghana

Author Identifiers

ORCID: 0000-0002-4572-0904

Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Kwadwo Adusei-Asante

Second Advisor

Professor Jacques Oosthuizen

Third Advisor

Dr Eddie van Etten

Fourth Advisor

Dr Kwasi Frimpong

Abstract

Excessive heat exposure due to rising temperatures associated with climate change adversely affects workers’ health, safety, productivity, and psychosocial well-being in occupational settings. In the hot and tropical regions of developing countries, long hours of physically demanding work, coupled with inadequate adaptation policies to climate change, increases the occurrence of heat-related illnesses and injuries, and contributes to the loss of productive capacity, poor decision making, and other negative effects on the social well-being of workers.

Based on the theories of social impact assessment, risk assessment, adaptation and resilience planning, this study assesses the social impacts of climate change and occupational heat stress and adaptation strategies of mining workers in Ghana, and thus fills a significant gap in the existing literature. Guided by the pragmatists’ research philosophical paradigm, this study adopted the convergent mixed methods approach by utilising data obtained from four temperature and humidity data loggers, 346 surveys of mining workers, two focus groups and three in-depth interviews. The quantitative data was processed with Microsoft Excel 2016, XLSTAT 2019, and analysed using Statistical Product and Service Solutions (SPSS) version 25 while the qualitative data was processed utilising NVivo version 11 and thematically analysed.

The findings suggest that the use of convergent mixed methods showed adequate corroboration and complementarity between the qualitative and quantitative data and helped to obtain credible data relevant for policy decisions on heat stress management, workplace health and safety, and adaptation strategies. Supervisors’ climate change risks perception was adequate, workplace heat exposure risks concerns were moderate and their views of workers’ heat stress experiences were heat-related illness and minor injuries. The differences in supervisors’ climate change risk perceptions and occupational heat stress risk experiences across job experience and adaptation strategies across educational status were significant (p<0.05). Workers’ concerns about climate change effects and workplace heat exposure risks; heat-related morbidities experienced by workers; and their use of heat stress prevention measures significantly differed between Small-Scale Mining (SSM) and Large-Scale Mining (LSM) (p<0.001). The disparity in heat exposure risk factors across workers’ gender, education level, workload, work hours, physical work exertion, and proximity to heat sources was significant (p<0.05). Thermal assessments demonstrated that workers were exposed to high ambient heat conditions that raise their heat stress risk. Workers’ adaptation strategies, social protection measures, and barriers to adaptation strategies differed significantly across the type of mining activity (p<0.001).

Based on the seven publications related to the social impacts of climate change and occupational heat stress and adaptation strategies of mining workers, this study recommends that there needs to be a concerted global effort at providing adequate and effective heat exposure and adaptation policies to promote workers’ health and safety, productive capacity and psychosocial well-being; to reduce their vulnerability to heat stress, improve their adaptive capacity and resilience; and enlighten policy decisions and enforcement in the mining industry.

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