News: Climate crisis to slash working hours for 800 million employees: Study

Employment Landscape

Climate crisis to slash working hours for 800 million employees: Study

The report highlights the diverse consequences of heat stress, including reduced productivity, heat-related illnesses, injuries impairing cognitive function, kidney and cardiopulmonary damage, and fatalities.
Climate crisis to slash working hours for 800 million employees: Study

Global warming stands as one of the most pressing issues confronting both the Earth and humanity. Its far-reaching effects permeate every facet of our lives, extending even to the realm of work.

A recent study published in the Cell Press journal One Earth reveals that an extra 1°C rise in temperature will reduce the working hours of approximately 800 million individuals in tropical regions. The research focused on investigating the effects of global warming on the welfare of outdoor workers within the tropics. 

"We show that under an additional 1°C of warming, ~800 million people in the tropics will live in areas where heavy work should be limited for over half of the hours in the year," the study said. 

According to Luke Parsons, co-lead author of the report, these findings are particularly significant because the majority of the working-age population in tropical countries are involved in outdoor-centric sectors such as construction, agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. 

"Some of the world's highest population growth rates are also projected to occur in these regions, hence the number of people potentially exposed to future high heat and humidity who also work outdoors will probably rise alongside global temperatures, putting them at even greater risk," he said in a statement quoted by The Nature Conservancy, reported HRD. 

As outlined in the report, potential well-being outcomes resulting from heat stress encompass several facets, including: 

  • Decreases in productivity. 
  • Heat-related illnesses. 
  • Incidents of traumatic injury and impaired cognitive function. 
  • Kidney damage. 
  • Cardiopulmonary impairments. 
  • Fatalities. 

These findings emerge following earlier warnings from the United Nations about the onset of a "global boiling" era, which raises concerns about workers potentially collapsing from extreme heat. 

The study emphasises the importance of implementing various measures concurrently to safeguard the health and well-being of employees amidst escalating temperatures. "For instance, governments could institute early warning systems for heat events as part of heat action plans and regulations to mandate employers to provide cool-down rest areas or cooling stations, sufficient rest breaks, flexible work schedules, schedules to acclimatise new workers, and stop work activities during extreme heat events," the report read. 

The recommendation mirrors existing practices such as the warning system implemented in Hong Kong and the midday work ban enforced in certain regions of the United Arab Emirates during specific times of the year. 

According to the study, employers can adopt primary measures including providing training, education, and workplace policies for both workers and supervisors. These measures should encompass recognising, responding to, and addressing symptoms of heat-related illnesses and other health effects of heat stress. 

Additionally, secondary measures such as implementing flexible work schedules, providing rest breaks, and establishing cooling stations can effectively mitigate worker heat stress and improve adaptive capacity. Furthermore, tertiary solutions recommended in the report include accommodating medical restrictions for workers recovering from heat-related illnesses and injuries. 

Employers are advised to offer paid time off, sick days, and medical assistance in cases where workers become ill or sustain injuries due to excessive heat exposure, particularly in situations where workers' compensation benefits may not be available.

Read full story

Topics: Employment Landscape, #Wellbeing, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

Did you find this story helpful?



How do you envision AI transforming your work?