Four Solutions To Help Your Firm Stem The Safety Repercussions Of Physical Climate Risks

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Four Solutions To Help Your Firm Stem The Safety Repercussions Of Physical Climate Risks

The number of recorded loss events from natural disasters has been on a steady rise for several decades now. There is evidence to suggest that human contribution to climate change is leading to a heightened frequency of severe weather events including extreme temperatures and rainfall, air pollution, wildfires and more. Whilst the severity of physical climate risk is dependent on several factors including geographic location, preparedness of infrastructure, and cultural response to extreme weather, it is undoubtedly an issue that EHS functions globally should be planning for.

A prominent threat as we enter the summer months is occupational heat exposure. An NPR and Columbia Journalism Investigations report found that at least 384 workers have died from environmental heat exposure in the US in the last decade. The analysis also found that the three-year average of worker heat deaths in the US has doubled since the early 1990s. 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 travelling to work and remaining on-site should a malign weather system come in. Consider eight workers that were killed in a Kentucky-based candle factory in 2021 following a decision not to let workers leave their shift early to evade an oncoming tornado. A similar situation also occurred in 2021 at an Illinois-based Amazon warehouse whereby six employees were killed.

While extreme weather is a variable that EHS functions cannot control, a hierarchy of technology-enabled mitigation solutions can be implemented to stem their impact. These range from the elimination of risk through deploying robotics to tracking worker exposure using wearable devices. Four solutions that can be used to manage physical climate health and safety risk are:

1) Critical event management software with weather decision technologies.

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. For example, Everbridge, a critical event management software provider, offers a SMARTWeather alerting system that uses Weather Decision Technologies (WDT) to automate location-specific severe weather alerts.

2) Wearable devices to track exposure.

For individuals conducting manual work, the use of sensors can help track and monitor worker heat exposure in real-time. Consider Kenzen, a climate technology and heat science solution provider, which uses wearable devices to measure core temperature, worker microclimate, and sweat rate, amongst other vital signs.

3) EHS Software to support the management of worker exposure, alerts and training.

EHS management systems can provide oversite over worker activities and be used to issue alerts should weather conditions surpass risk thresholds. Finally, an in-built LMS and training solution will help ensure hot weather working practices are followed.

4) Robotics to eliminate the risk of heat exposure at their source.

Consider the use of robotics, such as drones, that can be used to gather sampling data including air quality, noise and pollutant data. Drones can also be used to perform inspections in remote locations to reduce worker exposure to the elements.

Going forward, demand for solutions that support EHS functions in navigating physical climate risks will likely increase. This is due to the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events and employers assuming greater responsibility for worker safety in relation to heat stress and other factors. While OSHA does not currently have a standard for heat conditions, it has begun the process of considering a heat-specific workplace rule. Moreover, some states have already implemented their own policies, consider California’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard.

For more insights relating to environment, health and safety technologies, see our latest research.

Industry Analyst

Chris is an Industry Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice. His current research agenda focuses on digital mental health and wellbeing solutions. Chris joined Verdantix in 2020 and has previous experience at EY, where he specialised in robotic process automation (RPA). He holds an M.Eng. in Engineering Science from Oxford University with a concentration in machine learning and machine vision.