Climate-Changed Weather Increases Worker Risk

Climate-Changed Weather Increases Worker Risk

As climate change upends weather patterns and makes extreme weather more intense, workers face growing risks on the job. Increased flooding makes trucking and delivery jobs riskier; increasing heat and humidity make any outdoor job more dangerous; wildfires exacerbate air pollution. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for inspecting workplaces and keeping them safe, isn’t fully equipped for the job at hand. The organization is both underfunded and understaffed during a period in time when it’s especially needed, Mother Jones reports.

OSHA is strapped, with fewer than 1,000 inspectors responsible for 10 million worksites. An on-the-job death incurs an average fine of $12,000. Under a grim lens, that means companies can essentially write off peoples’ lives as a cost of doing business.

Why This Matters

For workers, the issue of job conditions is life and death. The last decade has consistently broken heatwave records, especially causing concern in places like the Pacific Northwest that aren’t equipped for hotter days. There are currently no OSHA regulations for heat, although the Biden Administration initiated one last year. With climate change intensifying weather, the government and companies should consider how to better protect people from various growing health risks on the job.

Climate/Labor Synergy

The situation at OSHA is an example of how the climate crisis makes poor labor conditions worse for workers, especially for those working without the protection of a union. Labor and climate issues are deeply intertwined, and some unions are taking an active role in climate solutions. Last month, more than a dozen Maine unions formed the Maine Labor Climate Council. The group put together a list of 11 goals to advance climate solutions and create jobs. It includes electrifying all state and local vehicles by 2040, building a high-speed rail corridor from Bangor to Boston, and doing deep energy-efficiency retrofits and solar installations on all K-12 public schools and publicly owned buildings.