News: Climate change heats up worker safety concerns


Climate change heats up worker safety concerns

As Southeast Asia grapples with a record heat wave, organisations must revamp health and wellbeing programmes beyond compliance, building resilience against climate-related health threats.
Climate change heats up worker safety concerns

A looming threat to worker safety and health is rising alongside global temperatures: climate change. With World Day for Safety and Health at Work approaching, International SOS urges organisations to adapt their occupational safety and health (OSH) programmes.

This year's theme, "Impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health," underscores the urgency of addressing this evolving danger. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that over 70% of the global workforce faces potential exposure to climate-related health hazards, including extreme heat stress, worsening air quality, and more frequent and severe weather events.

These concerns are backed by data. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects a decline in labor productivity due to climate change, with a potential loss of more than 2% of total working hours worldwide by 2030 due to extreme temperatures impacting work safety and output.

"The escalating threats of climate change necessitate immediate action to manage risk exposure and health incidents for the workforce," stated Dr. Olivier Lo, Global Medical Director, Occupational Health Services at International SOS.

"We saw an 80% increase in climate-related medical alerts in 2023 compared to 2022. This concerning trend aligns with the International SOS Risk Outlook 2024 report, where four of the top five health risks identified are linked to climate or weather factors."

Traditionally, occupational health and safety programs have focused on physical safety, accident prevention, and maintaining a sustainable work environment. However, climate change adds a critical layer of concern: the impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

Extreme weather events and climate-related disasters can trigger a range of emotional responses, including distress, anxiety, depression, grief, and even suicidal behavior.

"With Southeast Asia facing an unprecedented heat wave this year, organisations need to redesign their workforce health and wellbeing programmes to address climate-related health threats," Dr. Vikram Vora, Medical Director for International SOS in the Indian Subcontinent said.

Proactive management of emerging OSH risks not only creates positive work environments but also contributes to a more sustainable future. This includes support for mental and emotional wellbeing, chronic disease management, and preventive healthcare."

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Topics: Business, #SustainabilityForPeople

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