New analysis suggests climate change poses risk to construction workers

April 28, 2022

A report from the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests climate change poses a particular risk to California employees who cannot avoid outdoor exposure, including construction workers, and that the risk is increasing, according to constructiondive.com.

The analysis says construction workers face increased occupational risks and health hazards from greater exposure to elements such as heat and air pollution. They also are at greater risk of decreased productivity and disruptions—for example, from extreme heat and wildfire smoke threats—that cause delays and make work less stable and predictable.

The report says low- and middle-wage workers and Latinos are at higher risk because that population makes up about 60% of California’s outdoor workforce.

It also says California faces five major hazards resulting from climate change: higher temperatures and extreme heat; more frequent and intense drought; increased flood risk; worsening wildfires; and coastal flooding and erosion. The report suggests taking preemptive steps to help workers and industries adapt could lead to better long-term health outcomes and fewer economic effects.

The report encourages lawmakers to consider the role the state should play in addressing climate concerns; for example, in its budget and climate action planning, the legislature could consider the increased costs for its employees fighting wildfires and other climate effects.

Although the report focuses specifically on climate effects in California, many of the points can apply to construction workers throughout the U.S. Construction organizations and companies are collaborating regarding how the industry should respond to climate change. For example, Associated General Contractors of America has a climate task force that in 2021 released recommendations for reducing construction’s climate effects, and contractors often make plans for extreme weather conditions during the early stages of projects.

Tags: Safety | Workforce

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