The impact of climate change on occupational health and safety

The impact of climate change on occupational health and safety

As the world grapples with changing climatic environments, the impact of climate change on occupational health and safety cannot be ignored. Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These include rising sea levels and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns across the globe. These changes have a direct impact on the health and safety of workers across industries. In this article, we discuss five ways the impact of climate on occupational health and safety is being felt across the world. 


Climate change and heat-related illnesses 

Rising temperatures, heat waves, and humidity levels have led to an increase in heat-related illnesses. Workers exposed to high temperatures for extended periods can suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even heatstroke. Industries that require outdoor work, such as agriculture, construction, and mining, are particularly vulnerable. Workers in these industries must be adequately trained on how to recognise the symptoms of heat stress and how to prevent it. 


Climate change and extreme weather events 

Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. These events can cause significant damage to workplaces, disrupting operations and putting workers at risk. Workers must be trained on how to respond to these events and how to evacuate safely in the event of an emergency. 


Climate change and air quality 

Another serious impact of climate change is an increase in air pollution, which can have a significant impact on respiratory health. Workers who work in outdoor environments or industries that produce pollutants, such as manufacturing, are at risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. Employers must take measures to reduce emissions and provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure to harmful pollutants. 


Climate change and vector-borne diseases 

Climate change has also led to changes in the distribution and abundance of vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, increasing the risk of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease, dengue fever, and malaria. Workers who work outdoors in areas where these vectors are prevalent, such as forestry and agriculture, are at risk of contracting these diseases. Employers can provide workers with appropriate PPE and training on how to avoid exposure to these vectors. 


Climate change and mental health 

Climate change can have a significant impact on a worker’s mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, and stress. Workers who are exposed to the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, may experience trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Employers should provide mental health support services to workers and develop strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on workers’ mental health. 


Identify risks to occupational health and safety 

By developing and implementing appropriate policies and procedures, employers can help ensure the safety and well-being of their workers in the face of these challenges. This can also help mitigate the impact of climate change on occupational health and safety. As an Approved Inspection Authority, we can help your organisation identify and address the risks posed by climate change to your workers’ health and safety. 

Contact us to enquire about the Apex Environmental services that relate to the above. These include thermal risk assessments, ventilation assessments, and PPE assessments. Taking these steps can ensure that your workplace and employees are prepared for the negative impacts of climate change. Contact Apex Environmental to discuss the above occupational hygiene services in more detail.