On the Frontlines: Climate Change Threatens the Health of America’s Workers

Credit: John Moore/Getty

Authored with: Nikole Blandon and Bora Chang 

The climate crisis is dramatically changing the work environment for American workers, making existing workplace hazards worse and creating new ones. Outdoor workers will be exposed to more severe heat, more toxic substances, and a heightened risk of infectious diseases; indoor workers will struggle in buildings without air conditioners. As increasingly extreme weather events destroy infrastructure and threaten communities, first responders and cleanup crews will face ever more frequent, exhausting, and dangerous deployments. Yet, thanks to regulatory rollbacks, loopholes, and a lack of urgency, federal and state agencies are not holding employers accountable for unsafe and unhealthy work practices.

This NRDC report brings together the latest research along with new reporting to better understand the many climate-related risks workers face, and how we can address them to improve worker safety in our changing world. To help today’s workers, we need lawmakers, regulators, employers, unions, other worker organizations, and workers themselves to start adapting to a fundamentally different world. Protecting worker health from the impacts of the climate crisis is fully within our grasp—but will only get harder the longer we wait to act.

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