Report shows potential health effects of climate change on workers

Individuals in construction, transportation, factories at higher risk

Posted April 12, 2016

A review of the potential health effects of climate change on workers is now available in a report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The report, U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate and Health Assessment, provides a comprehensive overview of the potential health effects of climate change across the US.

Included in the report is a section on populations of concern, including outdoor workers and workers who may be exposed to other extreme weather environments.

Worker health issues are also examined in other sections of the report as part of broader discussions regarding the public health impact of climate change.

According to the report, climate change may increase the severity and prevalence of known occupational hazards, as well as the development of new hazards. Most at risk are outdoor workers, including agriculture workers, commercial fishermen, construction workers, transportation workers, and first responders. Workers in hot indoor environments such as warehouses and factories are also at risk.

The risk outdoor workers face from climate change includes working in hotter temperatures for longer spans of time. These kinds of exposures can cause heat-related illnesses, as well as stress and fatigue which can put workers at risk for injury. Workers may also have less control over their exposures to climate change related risks than the general public.

In addition to heat exposures, the authors note that changes in climate patterns can cause increasingly frequent and severe weather extremes such as storms, flooding, and drought. Warmer and dryer conditions have also increased the duration of the wildland fire season. This may result in an increased need for emergency response resources, further straining the nation’s responders both physically and psychologically.

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