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The ILO published a report that links climate change impacts to new and heightened OSH risks. The report specifically notes that clothing brands are failing to recognise how extreme weather events will compromise workers’ health and safety. 

  • On 22 April 2024, the ILO published a new report on the link between climate change impacts and increased occupational safety and health (OSH) risks in the workplace, Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate. The report predominantly targets government policy makers but also includes key recommendations and considerations for companies. The report is comprehensive. We have conducted a rapid review and pulled out key findings relevant to our clients below.
  • The report covers direct impacts of climate change, such as heat stress, indirect consequences such as increased pesticide use and unintended OSH risks resulting from the shift to green technologies, for example, solar panels and lithium-ion batteries contain toxic chemicals harmful to workers’ health.
  • The ILO’s report has received significant social media attention, for example by  Better Work,  the United Nations Department of Social Affairs, UNEP, the Geneva Environment Network

Key findings  

  1. Key climate related OSH risks – The report focuses on six key climate impacts and outcomes on OSH in the workplace: excessive heat, ultraviolet radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and agrochemicals. These impacts are not isolated and will jointly have increased impacts on OSH risks.
  2. High-risk sectors – Agriculture is flagged as one of the highest risk sectors due to workers being outdoors. Manufacturing is also listed as a high-risk sector, particularly for jobs in hot indoor environments or enclosed spaces lacking proper ventilation, such as the garment sector in many contexts. The ILO specifically notes that clothing brands are failing to recognise how extreme weather events will compromise workers’ health and safety.
  3. High-risk workers: Low-income workers, workers in the informal economy, seasonal workers, and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to OSH risks linked to climate change because they generally have fewer OSH protections and are employed in higher-risk sectors.  Pregnant women are also high-risk due to pregnancy-related complications such as hypertension and miscarriages linked to excessive heat.
  4. The ILO specifically notes that collective agreements between business and trade unions can be effective measures for addressing emerging OSH risks.
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