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ILO report: Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate

by Madaline Dunn

A new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) titled, Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate, has found that climate change is already having a serious impact on the safety and health of workers in all regions across the world. 

According to the report, more than 2.4 billion workers (out of a global workforce of 3.4 billion) are likely to be exposed to excessive heat at some point during their work. When calculated as a share of the global workforce, the proportion has increased from 65.5 per cent to 70.9 per cent since 2000.

In the report, it is noted that climate change threatens ecosystems and the 1.2 billion jobs that rely directly upon them, particularly jobs in farming, fishing, and forestry. 

Further, while outlining that 18,970 lives and 2.09 million disability-adjusted life years are lost annually due to the 22.87 million occupational injuries, which are attributable to excessive heat, it emphasises that climate change impacts extend beyond this. 

Numerous health conditions in workers have been linked to climate change, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, kidney dysfunction and mental health conditions, it shared.

The impact includes: 

  • 1.6 billion workers exposed to UV radiation,
  • More than 18,960 work-related deaths annually from nonmelanoma skin cancer,
  • 1.6 billion people are likely to be exposed to workplace air pollution,
  • This will result in up to 860,000 work-related deaths among outdoor workers annually,
  • Over 870 million workers in agriculture are likely to be exposed to pesticides,
  • More than 300,000 deaths are attributed to pesticide poisoning annually,
  • Fifteen thousand work-related deaths every year due to exposure to parasitic and vector-borne diseases.

It outlined that countries have implemented new laws to specifically address excessive heat in the working environment, ranging from maximum temperature limits to guidelines for adaptive measures at the workplace-level, with legislation varying considerably between countries.

However, according to the report, as climate change hazards evolve and intensify, it will be necessary to re-evaluate existing legislation or create new regulations and guidance.

Read the full report here. 

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