Occupational Health

Two women in hard hats inspect an electrical network behind a sheetrock wall

The Issue 

A changing climate can have a significant impact on people’s health and safety at work. Extreme temperatures can lead to heat stroke or hypothermia in employees and make it dangerous to work outside. Floods, storms and pollution can also create unsafe occupational environments. Some occupations require workers to be out in these extreme conditions for extended periods of time. Knowledge gaps remain as to the extent of occupational exposure to unsafe working conditions in a changed climate and the associated impacts on health and safety.

CHI Research & Action

Extreme temperatures are an occupational hazard for those who work in outdoor environments such as construction workers, agricultural workers, and emergency responders. CHI researchers recently conducted a review of published research and found that extreme heat will be the primary source of environmental stress at work in the United States in the coming decades. CHI members are also researching how climate change poses a threat to sleep, with sleep disruption from disaster-related stress and air pollution-associated breathing problems. Another project is exploring the effects of heat on chronic kidney disease development among outdoor workers. As the exposure of occupations to these extreme environments continue to change, more research is required to analyze the impacts.

Our Experts

Kate Applebaum
Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health
GW Milken Institute School of Public Health

Melissa Perry
Professor and Chair, Environmental and Occupational Health
GW Milken Institute School of Public HealtH

David Michaels
Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health
GW Milken Institute School of Public Health