One of the pressing climate challenges in Trinidad and Tobago is the prevalence of occupational climate risks that workers remain exposed to. Workers’ exposure to climate events and disasters places them at risk for heat illnesses, respiratory illnesses, fatigue, bodily injury, and loss of life and livelihoods. This reality inspired my desire for workers’ safety to be factored more in the discussions and strategies for climate resilience.

Just like many other Small Island Developing States, Trinidad and Tobago is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; including temperature increases, sea level rise, increased flooding, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes, and hillside erosion. The areas for impact range from fisheries, coastal resources, and agriculture, with some of the key affected groups being workers. Amid these effects, workers are still expected to navigate with limited protective materials or adjustments to their work environments.


Photo credit: Trinidad and Tobago Guardian


The question that I continue to ask is, “Why is this not talked about more?”

Workers such as emergency responders, commercial fishermen, farmers, security personnel, outdoor salespersons, laborers, vendors, and transportation staff are some of the first groups to face the brunt of climate change for extensive periods. When a climate disaster or adverse weather event occurs, the effects on the worker remain underreported. This leads to insufficient actions and practices to reduce risk exposure.

For example, rising heat temperatures persist throughout the country, leading to workers experiencing heat stress, heat fatigue, heat rashes, dehydration, and disorientation to name a few. Organizations such as CEPEP have recognized what’s at stake for the well-being and livelihoods of workers who face prolonged exposure, urging contractors to implement heat-stress awareness training, and an emergency plan, and help workers become acclimated. Actions like these are what’s necessary for more organizations, authorities, and policymakers to take hold of.


Photo credit: CEPEP


Reporting and discussions on the detrimental effects of the climate crisis must give more focus to how workers are continually at risk. What I’d like to see is more investigations and measures be taken to protect workers in a changing climate. This is a climate win that I envision, being another step towards inclusion for a climate-resilient future. Achieving this must be a collaborative effort and will require actions taken at all levels, beginning with the employer and legislation.

In an article by Catherine Ramnarine and Daniel Nancoo, they stated, “As a starting point, employers should examine health and safety risks posed by climate change. Under Section 13A of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”), employers have to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks that employees are exposed to while at work, and to identify what measures may be necessary to mitigate those risks.”

In establishing a duty of care and the required legal obligations, employers must work with and guide employees to protect themselves from climate risks. Some actions to achieve this include training and educational sessions, acclimatization, weather monitoring, development of a response plan for workers with symptoms of illness, provision of personal protective equipment and shelter stations, and ventilation.

A climate-resilient future for Trinidad and Tobago cannot be achieved without factoring in the workers who are also exposed to climate hazards and risks. To do so, we must provide sufficient reporting, discussions, and strategies that analyze and assess what risk reduction measures are necessary amid ongoing climate changes.