Utilize technology to protect workers from climate impact, advisors urge

Research and advisory firm Verdantix has suggested that changing climate impact is putting people at greater risk of occupational heat exposure, and tech should be employed to mitigate it.

The research and advisory firm warns that most employers currently have little or no systems in place for helping to protect their staff from this issue and other climate impact-related physical threats.

Verdantix said employers should consider using a range of technology-enabled mitigation solutions, such as drones that can be used to gather sampling data including air quality, noise, and pollutant information, or wearable devices to track heat exposure.

Verdantix Research Director, Environment, Health & Safety, Bill Pennington said: “So far this summer, across Europe we have seen extreme record- breaking heatwaves and the devastation these have brought. Field workers and those exposed to heat risks face increased dangers during these unprecedented times. However, employers have a duty of care towards their staff to ensure they are not at risk of suffering from occupational heat exposure.

“Extreme weather health and safety risks are not only applicable to field workers; firms need to have procedures in place to assess the risk of traveling to work and remaining on-site should a malign weather system come in.

“In the US alone, at least 384 workers have died from environmental heat exposure in the last decade, and the three-year average of worker heat deaths in the country has doubled since the early 1990s.”

The UK recently hit highs of 40 degrees Celsius in several parts of the country for the first time in since numbers were recorded, highlighting the tangible impact of climate change and the need for measures to be put in place to protect British workers.

Verdantix added that, while extreme weather is a variable that Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) functions cannot control, a hierarchy of technology-enabled mitigation solutions can be implemented to stem their impact.

Verdantix Analyst Christopher Sayers said: “Going forward, demand for solutions that support EHS functions in navigating physical climate risks will increase. This is due to the rising prevalence of extreme weather events and employers assuming greater responsibility for worker safety in relation to heat stress and other factors.

“Organisations will need to be prepared, both through processes and technology, for a range of new physical climate risks.”

The company suggests four solutions that can be used to manage physical climate health and safety:

  1. Critical event management software – critical event management software allows firms to assess the risk of weather events, locate at-risk individuals and act appropriately based on pre-defined processes.
  2. Wearable devices – for individuals conducting manual work, the use of sensors can help track and monitor worker heat exposure in real-time.
  3. EHS software – EHS management systems can provide oversite over worker activities and be used to issue alerts weather conditions surpass risk thresholds. Finally, an in-built LMS and training solution will help ensure workers are following hot weather working practices.
  4. Robotics – consider the use of robotics, such as drones, which can be used to gather sampling data including air quality, noise and pollutant data.

ESG & Sustainability Research Director at Verdantix Kim Knickle said: “Climate-related extremes have caused €14.5 billion in financial losses in Europe per year since 2011, and this will continue to increase, with droughts alone set to cause €12 billion in annual losses if global warming is limited to 1.5° C.

“Firms must react to these increasingly costly climate events and improve their climate resilience. By investing in digital solutions firms can evaluate and manage the climate risk exposure of their physical assets and investments, which should include assessing mitigating actions and transition plans.”

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