Donate My RoSPA
    Basket is empty.
Net Total: £0.00

The state of climate resilience in construction: Highlighting the health and safety implications

The state of climate resilience in construction: Highlighting the health and safety implications


Dr Karen McDonnell, in collaboration with weather risk management organisation, EHAB, discusses the urgent need to build resilience to climate change into construction projects.

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be”.  This quote from Isaac Asimov back in the 1980s was referring to the need for people to think differently about the world around them and it applies perfectly to the topic of tackling climate change. Extremes of weather require people and businesses to make the right decisions to ensure they are climate resilient.
We know that there is a strong business case for addressing this issue. As long ago as 2017, the Harvard Business Review highlighted that: “The weather affects consumers’ behaviour in terms of what products they buy, where they buy them, and in what quantity. Even if a business knows how normal weather affects its earnings, unexpected abnormal weather events present their own risks. Research shows that abnormal weather disrupts the operating and financial performance of 70 per cent of businesses worldwide.  When weather conditions are on average adverse over days, weeks, or entire seasons, shortfalls in sales cause reduced cash flows and can lead to financial distress and business failure.”
The 2021, the 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report identified “climate action failure” as the most impactful and second most likely long-term risk to the global economy, while the Deloitte Global 2021 Climate Check report stated that: “Climate-related events are already affecting more than 1 in 4 organisations worldwide”. 

The state of climate resilience in construction: Research

During 2023, RoSPA has been exchanging information with EHAB about the importance of linking weather risk management to accident prevention and we have been speaking to our members about climate resilience and how they manage the risk to people and the organisation. The conversations are moving from ‘winter preparedness’ and ‘working in the summer’ to more frequent everyday issues as the climate-related world, as it is, presents its challenges.
So how do you reduce the risk to people as they work within a changing climate?
We need to think about:

  • The impact of weather events
  • The need to design with weather resilience in mind and innovate for enhanced durability and sustainability
  • The impact of weather-related disruption and loss of materials as a consequence
  • The need to involve the construction community in discussions and solution-forming processes
  • The need to utilise research to inform construction practices and decision-making
  • The need to highlight successful practice in weather resilient construction.

Research overview

EHAB, in collaboration with RoSPA, has been conducting research on the State of Climate Resilience in Construction, collecting 220+ answers from industry professionals globally and conducting a number of expert interviews from renowned organisations like AECOM, Gleeds, Arup, Jacobs, Morgan Sindall and Mace. The results show that overall, the industry is underprepared for the risks associated with more extreme and unpredictable weather conditions.

Health and safety risks

The survey results indicate a growing concern among professionals about the impact of extreme weather on health and safety incidents for site operatives, with 63 per cent expecting a rise in the next 3-5 years. While 43 per cent have a weather risk management plan or climate resilience strategy in place, a notable 41 per cent do not, and 16 per cent are unsure.

Interestingly, a significant majority (72 per cent) believe that technology and innovation will be key in addressing the costs, damages, and delays caused by extreme weather, demonstrating optimism in technological solutions to these challenges.

Case Study: Pothole caused by climate change represents health and safety risks

By Alexandra Gautier, EHAB

The allocation of £8.3 billion for pothole repairs and road resurfacing in England, funded by savings from the HS2 project cancellation, marks a significant investment in local road maintenance.

While this initiative addresses the immediate challenge of deteriorating road conditions, it is also crucial to recognise that climate change is a fundamental contributor to this problem. Extreme weather events, intensified by climate change, such as hotter summers and wetter winters, are exacerbating the formation and severity of potholes.

To effectively combat this issue, a dual approach is necessary: immediate road repairs and a long-term strategy focusing on carbon emission reduction and climate change mitigation. This strategy should include improved road design, innovative materials and technologies for road construction, public transportation investment, and driver education on pothole avoidance.

Addressing the root cause of climate change is also imperative to ensure the long-term safety and efficiency of road infrastructure. However, as climate change is happening and more unpredictable events can’t always be avoided, a strong climate resilience strategy needs to be put in place rapidly to guarantee efficiency and safety within the industry.

Laura Aucott

Dr Karen McDonnell is RoSPA's Occupational Safety and Health Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland. A Past President of IOSH, Karen represents RoSPA on The Sleep Charity Advisory Board, the Council for Work and Health and the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations.


Already a member? Login to MyRoSPA to read more articles

Login to you MyRoSPA account
Login to MyRoSPA to view exclusive member content


| Join RoSPA 

Become a member now
Become a member to access MyRoSPA to view more exclusive content


Already a member? Login to MyRoSPA to read more articles

Login to you MyRoSPA account
Login to MyRoSPA to view some more exclusive content


| Join RoSPA 

Become a member now
Become a part of the MyRoSPA team to view more exclusive content



Contact Us

General Enquiries
+44 (0)121 248 2000
+44 (0)121 248 2001
[email protected]
Contact form