United Nations Demands Global Action for Workers’ Health Protection

A new United Nations report has warned about the extent of the damage that climate change could have on the global workforce. Climate change isn’t just about rising temperatures and extreme weather events; it’s also impacting the health and safety of workers worldwide. 

Global Wake-Up Call

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On Monday, the United Nations (UN) released a new global report titled “Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate.” The report paints a picture of the upcoming challenges the world faces should climate change’s course not be corrected – and it’s not looking great.

70% of Workers at Risk Due to Climate Change

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The main takeaway is that 70% of workers around the world are likely to face climate-change-related health risks, with more than 2.4 billion people predicted to feel the negative effects of over-exposure to excessive heat on the job. 

Heat-Related Risks

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People who work outside – farmers, those in other agricultural roles, and laborers, all face increased risks – especially if they live in hot countries. 

Climate Impact on Economy

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Most people and industries are already seeing the effects of extreme weather and extreme heat – take for example the price of a coffee or a bar of candy.

Hidden Costs

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These are all increasing in price due to extreme weather making cocoa and coffee bean crops fail. Coffee bean prices hit a new high this month due to a lack of supply, as did cocoa beans.

Linking Climate Change to Severe Illnesses in Workers

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The report underlines the strong evidence linking climate change to a range of health conditions. It’s causing serious health problems like cancer, heart disease, breathing issues, kidney problems, and mental health struggles for workers.

Deadly Heat

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One big concern is the heat. Every year, millions of workers suffer injuries or even die because of excessive heat.

Millions of Workers at Risk 

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It’s estimated that over 22 million injuries, almost 19,000 deaths, and millions of lost life years are due to heat alone in workplaces.

Workplace Hazards

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Other issues highlighted in the report include pesticide poisoning, air pollution at work, getting sick from too much sun, and diseases spread by bugs. These are all things that can make workers very sick or even lead to death.

Protective Measures

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To deal with these dangers, some countries have made new rules to protect workers from extreme heat at work. 

Creating Rules to Safeguard Workers from Heat

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These rules set limits on how hot it can be in workplaces and create guidelines on what employers should do to keep workers safe. 

Continuous Review

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However, these laws need constant reviewing and updating as new hazards stemming from climate change arise. 

Governments, Businesses and Employees Working Together

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One of the big things the report emphasizes is the need for conversations between governments, businesses, and workers. 

Crucial Conversations

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These talks are crucial to making sure the rules in place are practical and help keep us safe while we work.

How Workplaces Can Combat Climate Change

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The report also mentions that workplaces can play a role in fighting climate change. For example, making buildings more energy-efficient not only helps the environment but also makes for healthier workplaces.

Research Needs

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Despite these efforts, there are still challenges. One big challenge mentioned in the report is that we need more research to understand all the ways climate change affects workers. 

Green Technology Risks

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Plus, as we move toward greener technologies, we need to be careful about new risks. Some of these technologies, like solar panels and batteries, can have chemicals that are harmful to workers if not handled correctly.

Worker Fatalities

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There is still a lot of work to be done to protect workers from all the dangers that come with climate change. According to the Department of Labor, exposure to environmental heat has killed 999 U.S. workers over the last 20 years. 

Future Challenges

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With rising heat levels across the globe, there’s a worry that these numbers may begin to escalate – hence the need for a comprehensive re-education on how to combat the hazards climate change poses to workers.

Weathering the Storm

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As these extreme weather events become more frequent, prioritizing worker safety and well-being will be crucial to weathering the storm.

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