The world of work must act quickly because workers from all business segments are and will be affected by climate and environmental changes, the French Agency for Food, Environmental, Occupational Health and Safety, Anses, said in a study published 19 April.
The only exceptions are risks related to noise and artificial radiations, which are not related to climate change, it added.
Main causes are the increase in temperatures, the changes in the biological and chemical environment, as well as the rise in the frequency and intensity of meteorological events, the agency specified.
Anses said it had conducted its study in a forward-looking approach in order to be able to anticipate the impact of climate change on health within the 2050 time frame.
The aim of the study is to stress the interactions between climate, the environment, and health in the working place in order to be able to identify potentially increased health damages caused by the rise of temperature and the changing patterns of meteorological events.
Heat stroke, infectious disease, and fatigue
Exposure to heat has consequences on the level of difficulty at the workplace, generating direct impacts such as dizziness, dehydration or heat stroke, the study reads.
It also has indirect impacts like psychosocial risks due to situations of tension, accidental risks because of a deterioration of vigilance, chemical risks linked to the inhalation of volatile substances or risks related to the biological agents (infectious diseases, pollen, etc.).
Climate change will also modify the disease spreading areas with disease carriers such as mosquitoes or ticks operating in areas where they were not previously present. This will particularly affect workers working in the wild or in contact with animals, the report continued.
The rise in frequency and intensity of meteorological events such as floods, summer droughts or forest fires may lead to an increase in accidental risks, thus generating physical and mental fatigue, especially for people working in the search and rescue field.
Promoting awareness of the effects of climate change on health
In the light of these profound modifications of the world of work, Anses urged everyone from employers to unions and politicians to get mobilised and start promoting awareness of the impact climate change already has on health.
The French agency recommended conducting information and training campaigns. More specifically, it stressed that all stakeholders should integrate into their professional risk assessment processes the already visible impacts of climate change, as well as those that can be anticipated, in order to deploy preventive health measures.
The climate change and health issue
The relationship between climate change and health has been a research topic for several years.
In a report published in 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the impact of climate change on health can already be estimated in terms of the number of deaths and years of life lost, and concern all categories of the population.
In 2011, France launched a cross-sectoral and interministerial National Climate Change Adaptation Plan (PNACC), under which Anses has been designated in charge of health and working environment issues.