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Monday, July 15, 2024

Dangerous heat waves take a toll on mental health of workers—ILO

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The International Labor Organization (ILO) warned that exposure to extreme weather events and climate-related disasters can cause serious mental health problems to workers such as stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicide.

In its report, the ILO said that more than 70 percent of the global workforce are exposed to risks linked to climate change that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year in many countries, including the Philippines.

The findings were very relevant to the Philippines given its link to heat stress and climate change, the ILO said, adding that the government should act immediately as the number of workers affected by extreme weather conditions is rising.

“Experiences from a number of regions across the world, including the Philippines demonstrate how extreme climate events are linked with an increased burden of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, stress and suicide in people of all ages,” the ILO stated in its report.

“In the workplace, this can lead to increased job tension, higher turnover intentions and workplace hostility, and stress about extreme weather could impede the ability to make essential work-related decisions,” it added.  

The ILO underscored it is essential to heed these warnings, adding that occupational safety and health considerations must become part of every organization’s climate change responses—both in policies and actions.

“Working in safe and healthy environments is recognized as one of the ILO’s fundamental principles and rights at work. We must deliver on that commitment in relation to climate change, just as in every other aspect of work,” the Geneva-based organization said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued an advisory reminding employers to observe health and safety measures to prevent and control heat stress and minimize its impact at the workplace.

Labor secretary Bienvenido Laguesma issued Labor Advisory No. 8, series of 2023, recommending measures to avoid heat stress, which includes reducing extreme heat exposure of employees through adequate ventilation and heat insulation in workplaces.

Adjusting the employees’ rest breaks or work locations, allowing them to use temperature-appropriate uniforms and personal protective equipment, and providing them with free and adequate drinking water are also among DOLE’s recommendations.

The health and safety measure advisory further asks employers—with worker approval—to apply flexible work arrangements that allow work hour adjustments while ensuring that the overall number of work hours per day or week remains constant until weather conditions improve.

Companies seeking assistance in implementing these measures can reach out to the regional offices of DOLE and the regional extension units of the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) for coordination.

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