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Climate change can adversely affect worker safety and health: report

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Photo: zorandimzr/iStockphoto

Washington – Climate change may increase the frequency and severity of occupational hazards and exposures – and create new ones, according to a report from the U.S. Global Change Research Program

Outdoor workers are often some of the first people exposed to climate change effects through higher temperatures, lower air quality, extreme weather, diseases, industrial exposures and environment changes, the report states. These exposures can result in heat-related illnesses, stress and fatigue, potentially raising the risk of injury.

Affected workers include agricultural workers, fishermen, construction workers, first responders and transportation workers. Workers in hot indoor environments, such as steel mills, warehouses and dry cleaners, also are at risk. Health effects from climate change can increase for certain workers, such as migrant workers and day laborers, who lack access to air conditioning or live in poorly insulated housing.

In addition, climate change can lead to severe weather events, such as flooding and drought, resulting in a greater need for first responders and potentially exposing those responders to hazards, the report states. Wildfires are also increasing in severity and frequency, posing danger to firefighters.

The report lists factors that can contribute to climate change exposure, including:

  • Occupation
  • Spending time at risky locations, such as urban areas, areas with allergens and pollutants, and flood-prone areas
  • Response to extreme weather events
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Older buildings
  • Limited mobility and function

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