NY Times: Work Injuries Tied to Heat Are Vastly Undercounted
Work Injuries Tied to Heat Are Vastly Undercounted, Study Finds
New data underline how heat waves can hurt people, especially the poorest workers, in unexpected ways.
Extreme heat causes many times more workplace injuries than official records capture, and those injuries are concentrated among the poorest workers, new research suggests, the latest evidence of how climate change worsens inequality.
Hotter days don’t just mean more cases of heat stroke, but also injuries from falling, being struck by vehicles or mishandling machinery, the data show, leading to an additional 20,000 workplace injuries each year in California alone. The data suggest that heat increases workplace injuries by making it harder to concentrate.
“Most people still associate climate risk with sea-level rise, hurricanes and wildfires,” said R. Jisung Park, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles and the lead author of the study. “Heat is only beginning to creep into the consciousness as something that is immediately damaging.”
The findings follow record-breaking heat waves across the Western United States and British Columbia in recent weeks that have killed an estimated 800 people, made wildfires worse, triggered blackouts and even killed hundreds of millions of marine animals.
But the new data, described in congressional testimony on Thursday, underline how heat waves can also hurt people in unexpected ways.
For example, extreme heat isn’t just a threat to outdoor workers, but also those who work indoors in places like manufacturing plants and warehouses. Those additional injuries mean lost wages and higher medical bills for low-income workers across a huge range of industries, widening the pay gap as temperatures rise.
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