Occupational Hazards and Climate

Posted on by Paul Schulte, PhD; Donna Van Bogaert, PhD; and Debbie Hornback, MS

Climate-related occupational hazards have historically received little attention. In 2009, NIOSH began work to address this gap and developed a framework to identify climate-related occupational hazards. Recently, NIOSH investigators published new work in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Based on a review and assessment of the peer-reviewed literature from 2008–2014, the article updates the original framework and identifies key priorities in research, surveillance, risk assessment, and policy development.

The updated framework identifies seven climate-related occupational hazards:

  1. Increased ambient temperatures
  2. Air pollution
  3. Ultraviolet radiation exposure
  4. Extreme weather
  5. Vector-borne diseases and expanded habitats
  6. Industrial transitions and emerging industries
  7. Changes in the built environment.

Why is climate such a risk for workers?

  • Workers are likely to have more frequent and intense exposure to hazards than the general public.
  • Employers need additional information to prepare and manage the risk for their workers.

Outdoor workers are particularly likely to be exposed to extreme heat, air pollution, UV radiation, extreme weather, and biological hazards. In many outdoor occupations, adverse health impacts are intensified by heavy exertion. Heat stress can result in illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps, and heat rash or even death. Exposure to heat also increases the risk of workplace injuries, such as those caused by sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and reduced brain function.

Worker safety must be a priority in renewable energy production and green construction. See the related NIOSH blogs: Going Green: Safe and Healthy JobsGoing Green: Safe and Healthy Jobs 2; and the NIOSH Green Jobs Spotlights. With attention to potential hazards in new technologies, workplaces can be engineered with prevention through design (PtD) so that they meet Green environment goals while creating new safer jobs.


Paul Schulte, PhD, Director, Education and Information Division

Donna Van Bogaert, PhD, Chief, Information Resources and Dissemination Branch, Education and Information Division

Debbie Hornback, MS, Health Communication Specialist, Information Resources and Dissemination Branch, Education and Information Division



Posted on by Paul Schulte, PhD; Donna Van Bogaert, PhD; and Debbie Hornback, MS

4 comments on “Occupational Hazards and Climate”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    The Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety is conducting research on how climate conditions, especially heat, affect agricultural workers. Heat illness prevention is a real concern for our region, which covers CA, NV, AZ, and HI, because many crops are harvested during the hottest part of the year.

    We are also studying farmer and farmworker perceptions of climate change and their current and future plans in regards to changing weather and agricultural health and safety.

    Thanks for sharing these article! I am sure they will really helpful! The basic thing people need to realize right now is that we are selfish. You cannot dig up dead plants from the ground, burn them for your own selfish energy use and then expect no repercussions. We used dead plants from the ground and burned them for the energy we needed to live as gods then released the by-product into the atmosphere creating a living hell here on earth.

    This is a very good article. Every government should put strict measures on the industrialists to curb industrial emmissions, and employers should also prioritise health and safety of their workers by putting into place health and safety procedures at their workplaces.
    Otherwise, the future generations are endangered because of climate change.

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Page last reviewed: November 16, 2016
Page last updated: November 16, 2016