California workers face a range of dangers on the job and these risks constantly change. Climate change continues to disrupt all areas of society, from damage to natural resources to harm to property to personal injuries.
Both employers and workers benefit from understanding the evolving impacts of weather-related perils.
A multitude of climate hazards
A report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office lists several types of major climate hazards now present in the workplace. Increasing temperatures, especially during outdoor jobs, expose workers to dangerous conditions that could lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Indoor workers also face difficult situations, especially in facilities that do not have adequate air conditioning. Heat stress has already resulted in worker fatalities in the state.
Intense rain events and increased floods as a result of climate change have the potential to endanger workers as rising waters sweep into buildings and cross roadways. More frequent and severe wildfires put firefighters and other first responders at risk and expose other workers to harmful smoke.
A greater threat to certain industries
Most information suggests climate change will more heavily impact lower-wage workers. These workers tend to find employment in industries such as landscaping, agricultural production, forestry and construction. The workers often toil in the outdoors and face pressure to continue working even during heat waves.
Employers will need to develop new strategies to protect workers. Possible measures include better training for workers and changing the timing and length of shifts during certain times of the year.
Workers who suffer from workplace injuries should understand their legal options. Climate change does not reduce an employer’s responsibility to provide safe conditions.