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Daily-current-affairs / 03 May 2024

Navigating the Intersection : Climate Change, Labor Safety, and Regulatory Reform: Daily News Analysis



The intersection of labor productivity, human health, and climate change has emerged as a critical area demanding attention. Amidst the focus on economic and infrastructure resilience, the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights the imperative to climate-proof labor in its latest report, "Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate." This urgent call underscores the necessity to adapt to a shifting work environment as the planet continues to warm. With more than a third of the global population exposed to excessive heat annually, resulting in millions of work-related injuries, the need for action is undeniable.

Understanding Emerging Hazards:

The ILO identifies six primary impacts of climate change, ranging from excessive heat to workplace air pollution and vector-borne diseases. These hazards pose significant threats to human health, manifesting in conditions like stress, stroke, and exhaustion. Particularly vulnerable are workers in agriculture, construction, conservancy, transportation, and tourism sectors. In India, where gig employment is on the rise, approximately 80% of the workforce is susceptible to heat-related risks, underscoring the urgency to address these challenges comprehensively.

In the agricultural sector, informal farm laborers in the developing world face precarious conditions exacerbated by climate change. Despite their critical role in food production, many farmers operate with minimal weather protection, leading to increased vulnerability. Similarly, the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, a significant employer in India, grapples with informalization, leaving workers exposed to heat hazards without adequate oversight. Additionally, the construction industry, predominantly urban-centric, confronts the urban heat island effect and air pollution, further endangering worker health.

Impact on Workplace Safety Laws:

India boasts a plethora of central laws aimed at regulating working conditions across various sectors, including the Factories Act, the Workmen Compensation Act, and the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, among others. However, the recent consolidation of these laws under the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code, 2020) has raised concerns among unions regarding safety standards. The delayed enforcement of the new law has resulted in continued reliance on older regulations, perpetuating gaps in worker protection.

Despite existing legislation, challenges persist in ensuring adequate safeguards against heat hazards in the workplace. Regulations outlined in the Factories Act, dating back several decades, lack specificity and fail to account for technological advancements such as air conditioning. Moreover, the majority of India's MSMEs operate outside the purview of governmental inspections, further exacerbating risks for workers. Urgent amendments are needed to align regulatory frameworks with evolving production processes and incorporate measures to ensure thermal comfort and worker safety.

Addressing Climate Hazards:

Efforts to address climate hazards extend beyond heat-related risks to encompass issues like effluent management and byproduct disposal. Instances like the Hindustan Unilever thermometer plant controversy underscore the critical importance of proper waste management in mitigating health risks associated with temperature-sensitive materials. Similarly, the potential rise in silicosis cases due to increased silica exposure highlights the need for proactive measures in high-risk industries such as mining and quarrying.

Existing regulations under the Factories Act inadequately address silica exposure prevention, reflecting a need for updated standards to safeguard worker health. However, challenges in enforcement persist, including staffing shortages and bureaucratic pressures. The competence of inspectors and their ability to conduct specialized inspections are crucial in ensuring compliance with safety regulations. Moreover, the influence of private sector interests on regulatory bodies raises concerns about impartial oversight and accountability.


The nexus between labor, climate change, and workplace safety demands urgent attention and concerted action. As the planet continues to warm, the risks posed by heat-related hazards, air pollution, and other climate impacts loom large. Addressing these challenges requires not only regulatory reform but also robust enforcement mechanisms and proactive measures to safeguard worker health. By prioritizing climate-proofing of labor and adopting a universally accepted regulatory framework, governments and employers can mitigate risks, protect worker well-being, and build resilience in the face of a warming planet.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. Discuss the importance of updating regulatory frameworks to ensure labor safety in sectors vulnerable to climate change impacts. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing laws in addressing heat-related hazards and propose measures to enhance worker protection in India.(10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Analyze the key impacts of climate change on labor productivity and human health, focusing on the hazards identified by the International Labour Organization. Critically assess the role of regulatory bodies and enforcement mechanisms in addressing these challenges, citing examples from India's industrial context.(15 marks, 250 words)

Source – The Hindu