Data Reveals Alarming Rise in Temperatures, Impact on Workers’ Health

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According to the latest data from Copernicus, the Earth observation component of the European Union’s space program, and the World Meteorological Organization, July 2023 is poised to make history as the hottest month ever recorded. Southern Europe is bearing the brunt of this unprecedented heatwave, with extreme temperatures taking a toll on workers’ health and sparking industrial action in some EU Member States.

The alarming statistics from Eurofound’s research, conducted back in 2015, underscore the severity of the situation. Shockingly, 23% of workers in the EU were already exposed to high temperatures during a quarter of their working time six years ago. Among those affected on a national level were workers in Romania (41%), Spain (36%), and Greece (34%). Agriculture and construction workers were hit the hardest, with 51% and 45%, respectively, enduring high temperatures for at least a quarter of their working hours.

Gender segregation in the labour market compounds the issue, as the data reveals that more men than women face prolonged exposure to extreme heat.

The findings from the European Working Conditions Survey, which interviewed 44,000 workers across 35 countries, raised concerns about the well-being of Europe’s workforce amidst the ongoing summer heatwave. Jorge Cabrita, Eurofound Research Manager, highlights the urgency of addressing this escalating problem:

“This data showed that, already in 2015, there was a large proportion of the workforce exposed to high temperatures. Given that prolonged periods of exposure to extreme heat can have severe adverse effects on workers’ health, the increases in average temperatures in Europe since then have only made the situation more challenging. Policymakers, employers, and, ultimately, individual workers must put in place relevant and effective measures to protect workers from the heat and ensure their well-being.”

The implications of the rising temperatures on workers’ health and safety demand immediate attention and comprehensive action from governments, businesses, and individuals alike. As Europe grapples with this heatwave, finding solutions to safeguard workers from the scorching conditions is of paramount importance.

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