Thursday, March 7, 2013

Research: Climate change and OHS

An emerging area of scholarship in occupational health and safety (OHS) is the impact of climate change on workplace safety. I ran across two articles that touched upon this recently.

Climate change and occupational safety and health: Establishing a preliminary framework” summarizes the research from 1988 to 2008 to identify seven categories of climate-related OHS hazards. While no new or climate-unique hazards were identified, the article nicely explains how climate change may intensify or expand existing hazards. Overall, a solid grounding in the topic. 

More relevant for Canadian readers is “Climate change and occupational health and safety in a temperate climate: Potential impacts and research priorities in Quebec, Canada”. This article identifies five major areas of potential interaction: heat waves/temperature increases, air pollutants, UV radiation, extreme weather events, and vector-borne disease. These hazards are most likely to affect “outdoor” industries (construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, transport, outside municipal workers). There was also some suggestion that climate change might affect workplace physical plants negatively, thereby creating hazards through degradation.

-- Bob Barnetson

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