Work Outside? How Climate Change Can Hurt You

Fact: the number of 90-degree weather days has been increasing. The cool, salty breezes along Rhode Island’s coastlines only reach so far inland. As a result, people who work outside are more likely to experience the negative health affects associated with high temperatures.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has understood how significant this issue is for quite some time. He has given over 100 speeches on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to take action against the ever-increasing issue of climate change. During one of his “Time to Wake Up” speeches, he talked about the number of 90-degree days, saying that “in the worst case, that number could rise to over 50 90-degree days every year, with the mercury soaring over 95 degrees Fahrenheit for 16 of those days.”

 

What does this mean? It means that those who work outside to repair our power lines and build our wind farms are susceptible to health risks like dehydration, exhaustion, and even severe sunburns. This could lead to heat-stress injuries and illnesses that result in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and time away from work. It is important for everyone to recognize how seriously people can be affected and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the workforce safe.

A good place to start is to limit the amount of time workers spend outside by offering cooling breaks. Employees should drink water and get out of the sun for a few minutes. Even if workers are given more chances to cool off and drink water, anyone with certain preexisting health issues, like asthma, may have trouble breathing the air anyway. On those hot days, smog forms more quickly, which can trigger an attack. As a result, it is not unreasonable to allow some leeway in break-time policies on the hottest days.

Employers and employees alike should pay extra attention to those air quality days once the weather warms up. It could be the difference between a day out of work due to severe dehydration and a healthy, productive worker.