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Helping Businesses Adapt to a Changing Climate


Adapting Occupational Health & Safety Policies, Standards & Protocols to Protect Employee Health

There is no single day when an extreme weather event is not affecting a nation or a community. These events impact organisations by disrupting the working environment and affecting people’s lives. Climate change transforms the risk profile of the workplace by exacerbating known risks, such as air quality or extreme temperature, while adding new ones, such as changes in the spread of infectious diseases.

If the definition of the workplace is taken broadly, including international mobility and professional travel, companies are exposed to Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) risks arising from climate change itself, from their efforts to adapt to it and mitigate its consequences.

How can employees’ health, safety and productivity be protected from prolonged periods of elevated temperatures? How can their working and living conditions be protected from peaks in air pollution? How could local employees and international travellers be spared from the spread of infectious diseases in areas previously immune to them?

Tackling these topics requires a thorough understanding of their meaning. Equally, as organisations are confronted with the duty of protecting their employees from the harm resulting from these new risks, they need to adjust their health, safety and security management systems.

At International SOS, we believe our value is in supporting organisations in understanding the impact climate change is having on employee health and to assist them in adapting their OH&S policies, standards and protocols. By supporting organisations in monitoring the evolution of these risks, we empower management teams to anticipate and respond to them accordingly. Our assessment of the risk exposure of sites and operations helps to identify an organisation’s degree of vulnerability and, in turn, strengthen their resilience.

As an example, we recently designed a set of guidelines on heat waves, air pollution, floods and droughts for our client’s OH&S teams so they would have to hand a comprehensive overview of the significance of each risk to their areas of focus. As a framework, each guideline gives an overview of the risk, details of the key elements of prevention, and recommends how to develop specific protocols tailored to local environments and working conditions. This approach helped the OH&S teams to initiate a process for updating their health and safety policies and standards, and to communicate internally on the necessary evolution of their HSE documentation.

As we anticipate a future of continued changes as a result of a changing climate, it becomes imperative to adopt an organised and systematic approach to OS&S that fosters resilience across organisations. As an illustration of our support, our expertise aims to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees by enhancing their resilience to climate-induced events. As a natural next step, it is likely that norms and standards that control the workplace, and regulations that normalise its environment, will soon become common place.

Our support is a way to address the challenges posed by climate-related events in anticipation of the likely evolution of the regulatory landscape.

For more information on how International SOS Health Advisors are supporting organisations to build climate resilience, click here.