Updated Apr 24, 2024

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This Sunday is World Day of Safety and Health at Work!

This Sunday (28 April) marks the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have recently announced the theme for this year is "exploring the impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health".

Climate change and adverse weather patterns can have a severe impact on occupational safety and health risks. UV radiation, air pollution and major industrial accidents are just a few of the risks that can be aggravated by extreme weather.

2023 was the warmest year on record, and as the heat increases, so does these concerning statistics from the ILO:

  • 2.41 billion workers are exposed to excessive heat at work every year;
  • 26.2 million people are living with chronic kidney disease related to workplace heat stress;
  • every year there are around 18,970 deaths and 22.87 million injuries due to work-related excessive heat;
  • 1.6 billion workers are exposed to UV radiation resulting in around 18,960 work-related deaths due to skin cancer per year;
  • 1.6 billion outdoor works are exposed to air pollution, resulting in 860,000 work-related deaths;
  • outdoor workers are also vulnerable to parasitic and vector-borne diseases, with 15,170 deaths;
  • the 96% growth in agrochemicals use (1990-2021), putting over 900 million agricultural workers worldwide at risk of exposure;
  • every year 300,00 people die of pesticide poisoning.

As climate change intensifies, workers around the globe find themselves at an increased risk of exposure to hazards such as:

  • excessive heat;
  • UV radiation;
  • extreme weather events;
  • air pollution;
  • vector-borne diseases; and
  • agrochemicals.

All of these hazards represent a threat in and within itself but are also uniquely interlinked and may result in a cocktail of hazards.

The cumulative effect may pose an unprecedented threat to humanity. Climate change is a:

  • health issue;
  • workplace issue;
  • social justice issue; and
  • human rights issue.

Going forward, the ILO says that workers and workplaces must be at the center of climate change action:

  • heat action plans must prioritise workers safety and health; and
  • legislation on occupational safety and health needs to mainstream climate change hazards as matter of urgency.

To commemorate World Day for Safety and Health and Work, the ILO have produced a report on ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate. They are also holding a global event with expert guest speakers to discuss how we can protect workers and respond to the challenges that arise from climate change on Thursday 25 April at 12.30pm.

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