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How global warming is hazardous to workers

For the last 134 years, scientists have tracked the earth's temperatures. Scientists first noted a significant warming trend in the earth's air temperatures during the 1980s. Since that time, recorded temperatures have continued to dramatically increase with the 10 warmest years on record being recorded since 2000, and 2015 registering as the hottest year on record.

This type of scientific data is impossible to refute and, with the earth's temperatures expected to continue to increase in the coming years; the health, safety and very lives of millions of U.S. workers will be in jeopardy. This theory is detailed in a recent report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate and Health Assessment, which details specific information that is relevant workers who primarily work outside as well as those “who may be exposed to other extreme weather environments."

According to the report, rising air temperatures pose very real dangers to construction workers who often perform strenuous physical labor and also operate heat-radiating machinery and equipment. If employers fail to establish protocols to protect workers from suffering heat-related illnesses, the number of workers who suffer heat stress, heat stroke and even death is likely to increase exponentially.

In addition to the rising air temperatures, the levels of gasses and other harmful materials in the air are also expected to increase, thereby reducing the quality of the air workers breathe. This in turn is expected to cause an increase in the number of "cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses and death." Additionally, this warming trend is also likely to result in even more extreme weather and natural disasters as well as outbreaks of food-borne illnesses and vector-borne infections such as those transmitted by mosquitoes.

The increasing health and safety dangers that are related to our earth's rising temperatures can no longer be ignored. Employers would be wise, therefore, to take steps to address these dangers and protect workers. Measures that could easily be instituted include providing respiratory equipment, limiting hard labor to certain times of the day and arming employees with information on steps they can take to protect against food and vector-borne illnesses and infections.

Source: EHS Today, "New Climate Change Report Discusses Impact on Health and Safety of Workers," Sandy Smith, April 5, 2016

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