Employees, collateral victims of global warming

Fires in the Var, temperatures exceeding 50 ° C in Turkey, floods ravaging south-eastern Germany… This summer will have been tarnished by a series of extreme climatic events. Called to occur more and more frequently, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently recalled, heat waves and other events resulting from global warming have sometimes dramatic consequences on the environment. activity of companies and the employees they employ.

During the heatwaves of summer 2020, twelve fatal work accidents “Possibly linked to heat” have been officially recognized by the Medical Labor Inspectorate, according to Public health France. Little information has filtered out on the victims: eleven men and one woman, aged 28 to 61. These were working ” principally “ outside at the time of the accident. Five of them worked in agriculture or forestry.

Like the hot weather, heavy rains bring their share of victims. Professionals working in flooded areas sometimes pay with their lives. In October 2020, storm Alex caused the death of a firefighter, swept away, in the Alpes-Maritimes, and that of two workers who came to clear the area on the Italian side, reports France 24.

Increased risk

Apart from deaths, the impact of extreme heat and natural disasters on the working conditions of employees remains difficult to measure, the link not being easy to establish. the Medicare annual report does not give details of occupational accidents potentially related to extreme weather events. “On everything related to the link between environment and work, we are dealing with new issues”, argues Sébastien Millet, associate lawyer specializing in labor law and social protection at the firm Ellipse lawyers. It must also be said that the consequences of global warming have long been underestimated, even denied.

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Yet public health experts agree that the predicted increase in extreme weather episodes risks causing more discomfort and increased risks for all workers. In a report published in 2018, the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) was already issuing the alert on a “Increased risks associated with the physical workload”, but also a “Poorer nighttime recovery, [une] reduced vigilance and, consequently, more accidents at work ” : in periods of extreme heat, the fatigue accumulated by individuals exposes them more to accidents, points out the ANSES report.

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