New Telegraph

OSH: Climate Change Complicating Health Risks, Workplace Hazards FG, ILO Warns

…seek laws to mitigate climate change’s impact on workers

In commemoration of the 2024 World Day for Safety and Health Work, the Federal Government and International Labour Organisation (ILO), have raised concerns over the adverse effect of climate change on existing health conditions and workplace hazards.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ismaila Abubakar who spoke at a symposium on Tuesday in Abuja, said there was a need for the ministry to champion laws that would mitigate the adverse impact of climate change on workers, especially those engaged in outdoor jobs, as well as promote safe and healthy working environments.

Represented by the director, Office of the Permanent Secretary, Jafar Musa, he stressed the need for relevant stakeholders to develop innovative solutions and strategies to tackle the challenges posed by climate change in the work environment.

He said: “We are actively engaged in formulating policies and guidelines that integrate climate resilience into occupational safety and health practices.

“Let us recommit ourselves to actions that would mitigate the effects of climate change on workers’ health and safety, and harness the power of collective responsibility to build resilient and sustainable workplaces that protect the health, safety, and well-being of every worker.

“Let us lead the advocacy for the enactment of Laws that would mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, and empower workers with the right knowledge to adapt to emerging occupational safety and health issues such as technological advancement, climate change, demographic shifts and artificial intelligence.

“By working together, we can ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all Nigerians and prevent workplace accidents, injuries, diseases, dangerous occurrences, disasters, deaths due to the adverse impact of climate change, and promote a culture of safety and health at work.”

Director, ILO Country Office for
Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Liaison Office for ECOWAS, Ms. Vanessa Phala who raised concerns over the health risks and workplace hazards associated with the adverse effects of climate change, noted that the ILO would continue to advocate the enhancement of occupational safety and health (OSH) through the establishment of robust standards and conventions.

Represented by Oghenenuro Onosode, she noted that out of a global workforce of 3.4 billion, more than 2.4 billion workers were likely to be exposed to excessive heat at some point during their work even as she added that occupational hazards linked to climate change include excessive heat, dangerous UV radiation, and harmful air pollution.

According to her, numerous health conditions in workers have been linked to climate change, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, kidney dysfunction and mental health conditions.

She said: “The impact includes: 1.6 billion workers exposed to UV radiation, with more than 18,960 work-related deaths annually from non-melanoma skin cancer, 1.6 billion likely to be exposed to workplace air pollution, resulting in up to 860,000 work-related deaths among outdoor workers annually.

“Over 870 million workers in agriculture, are likely to be exposed to pesticides, with more than 300,000 deaths attributed to pesticide poisoning annually and 15,000 work-related deaths every year due to exposure to parasitic and vector-borne diseases.

“In Nigeria, as in other parts of the world, the effects of climate change complicate existing health risks, creating a complex landscape of workplace hazards that require innovative and adaptive responses. Workers in the; Manufacturing, Construction, Agriculture and Informal Sectors are at elevated risk.

“Therefore, I urge the Government of Nigeria to continue to integrate climate considerations into national OSH strategies actively. This should include enhancing resilience planning, improving health surveillance, and investing in education and infrastructure that reduce vulnerability to climate impacts.

“Let us take decisive action together to adapt our workplaces, protect our workers, and build a resilient future. By strengthening our collective efforts and harnessing the power of international cooperation, we can ensure that occupational safety and health standards evolve to meet the challenges posed by our changing climate.”

The Director, Occupational Safety and Health Department, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mrs Adogu Lauretta, highlighted that the ecological shifts and weather patterns currently affecting the safety, health, and well-being of workers and unsafe working conditions were a result of human activities.

She stressed the need to create awareness and sensitization on the impacts of climate change on workers’ health and safety and identify measures to mitigate the effects of workplace changes due to ecological shifts in the country.

“The impact of climate change on the world of work can not be overemphasized but thoroughly scrutinized as one of the Emerging Occupational Safety and Health Issues in the world. This underscores the urgent need to address the complex interplay between environmental sustainability and workplace safety.

“It serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges we face and the imperative to develop proactive strategies to mitigate risks and protect workers in the face of global warming.”

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