Climate Change and Occupational Health

Project Dates

09/18/2018 -


Despite many workers being regularly exposed to outdoor temperatures as part of their jobs, little is known about the effect of temperature on occupational health. This study assembles and analyzes two data sets that link occupational health outcomes and temperature. Using a data set that consists of daily occupational injury and illness rates constructed from Texas workers' compensation claims data, I find that a day with a high temperature over 100°F increases same-day claim rates by 7.6 to 8.2 percent and three-day claim rates by 3.5 to 3.7 percent. A day with high temperatures below 35°F increases three-day claim rates by 3.4 to 5.8 percent. To consider how the effects of temperature vary across climates, I construct a data set with daily injury rates from mining sites around the United States. The results indicate that sites in warmer climates experience worse effects of high temperatures than sites in cooler climates, suggesting that avoiding the adverse effects of higher temperatures may be easier for workers when there are fewer hot days. Using data from the monthly Current Population Survey, I show that high temperatures reduce hours worked to temperature-exposed workers more in cooler climates than in warmer climates, while low temperatures reduce hours worked more in warmer climates than in cooler climates. While research on the effect of temperatures on mortality finds substantial capacity for adaptation with current technology, the results presented in this paper highlight that the ease of adaptation varies across contexts. In some important settings, the effects of high temperatures may intensify as the earth warms.


W.E. Upjohn Institute

Subject Area

UNEMPLOYMENT, DISABILITY, and INCOME SUPPORT PROGRAMS; Workers compensation and disability; Occupational health and safety