Hazard Zone: The Impact of Climate Change on Occupational Health


Climate change-related heat increases pose risks to outdoor and indoor workers across a range of industries, from factory workers to those cleaning up oil spills. Higher heat levels leave workers vulnerable to illnesses like heat stroke and heat exhaustion.


Rising temperatures cause higher concentrations of ground-level ozone and other pollutants. Chronic exposure to ozone is associated with serious respiratory issues, such as lung damage, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Pathogens and Vector-Borne Diseases

Extreme rain events caused by climate change can create ideal breeding conditions for certain pathogens. People who work closely with the natural environment will be at an increased risk of exposure to vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Exposure to PAHs — chemicals that are released from burning things like coal, oil, gasoline, trash and wood — is common for those working in coal and oil industries. It is linked to serious conditions such as lung, liver and skin cancers.

Workplace Violence

Multiple studies have found a link between heat and crime. Heat has been tied to a higher likelihood that police officers will deploy deadly force and that people will exhibit aggressive and violent behavior.

Extreme Weather

As wind patterns, temperature and levels of moisture change, more frequent and intense weather events and natural disasters occur. Workers responsible for rescue and cleanup efforts are exposed to conditions that can lead to traumatic injury.