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The Growing Importance of Occupational Health in a Changing Environment

The Growing Importance of Occupational Health in a Changing Environment

By andrewdeen14Published 9 months ago 4 min read
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The Growing Importance of Occupational Health in a Changing Environment
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

As the planet warms, life as we know it is changing— both at home and at work. Staying healthy in a changing environment can require some adjustments, especially in the workplace. As weather patterns affect the world around us, it’s important to understand how these changes might affect employee health— and what needs to be done to address any issues that come up.

Occupational health is only becoming more important over time. This is an issue that concerns everyone, and we can’t afford to ignore it.

What is Occupational Health?

Many workplaces are inherently dangerous. People who work in certain industries understand that they might face risks and health consequences from working in their field. That might mean anything from developing carpal tunnel by typing all day to being severely injured at a construction site.

Occupational health refers to the health and wellness of people in their work environments. The field of occupational health aims to help workers maintain physical, social, and mental well-being while working in their chosen profession. In many cases, that means taking preventative action to reduce the risks of injury or illness on the job, but it can also include treatments and proactive wellness measures. The goal of occupational health is a safe and healthy work environment.

The occupational hazards of each job are different, and some are much more dangerous than others, of course. However, the potential health hazards in some work environments are changing and becoming more severe due to the effect of climate change. That’s why occupational health is becoming a critical concern for employers, employees, and public health advocates all over the world.

The Changing Environment of the Workplace

The work environment is always changing, due to social, economic, and ecological factors. Technology has been responsible for many of these changes throughout human history, from efficient factory equipment that posed risks to workers to chemicals used on farms that have ultimately been linked to cancer.

Now, there is a new problem to consider: the impact of climate change on workplaces globally. People who work outside or in buildings without temperature control, for instance, are working in more extreme conditions, which can include very high temperatures. Heatstroke, dehydration, and heat exhaustion can all occur in these working conditions. Over time, sun exposure can lead to serious health problems like skin cancer.

Furthermore, the changing environment has contributed to some formerly-rare diseases appearing more frequently and affecting workers all over the world. In the case of viruses, like COVID-19, rapid spread in the workplace is a concern.

There’s a mental toll from our changing environment for many workers as well. Workers whose safety is at risk due to natural disasters might be unable to maintain good mental health, experiencing issues like anxiety and depression. This affects both their quality of life and overall productivity.

Occupational Health Solutions

Knowing that climate change has increased risks for many workers should cause more employers to take a look at the risks within their work environment and evaluate possible solutions. Sometimes, these risks aren’t always obvious. An occupational health professional can evaluate an individual workplace and make suggestions based on their findings.

In many cases, investing in technology and/or changing company policies is necessary for workers’ health and safety. For example, temperature sensors, wearables, and other devices can help monitor working conditions and individual employee health. These devices must be paired with changes in operations, however, adding flexibility for employees who need to take a break for their own safety.

Other solutions don’t require the use of gadgets, however. Employers can implement changes like providing mental healthcare, using tents and other sources of shade to help protect employees working in the sun, or providing more breaks so employees can drink water and cool down a bit before going back to work.

Protocols for sick employees must also change with the times. Employers need to be strict about restricting employees who are ill from coming into the office. In some cases, this might require remote work flexibility. Every business is unique and might need creative solutions to meet the challenges of our changing environment.

Keeping Occupational Health in the Spotlight

Public health issues are typically complex and don’t often have a clear solution. When it comes to workplace health and safety, each business has an obligation to perform risk assessments and do everything possible to reduce potential harm to employees. This might mean making changes to a company’s operations or making investments in employee health.

Keeping occupational health in the spotlight will continue to be necessary as the effects of climate change continue to affect our world. Even if we are able to slow down the process, the changes that have already occurred and impact workers all over the world can’t be ignored. Fighting for the health and safety of workers is critical.

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