Importance of Green Jobs – Associated Risks and H&S

Energy, Environment

What are Green Jobs

Over the last few decades there has been a significant move towards a greener future because of environmental pollution. Countries are creating greener economies by increasing the number of green jobs to reduce the environmental impact of enterprises, to improve the efficiency of raw materials, to de-carbonise the economy and to reduce waste.

Green jobs are roles that contribute to the restoration and preservation of the natural environment. Green jobs may be in traditional sectors like manufacturing, construction etc. and emerging sectors like renewable energy and energy efficiency.

 

green jobs

Examples of Green Jobs & Associated Hazards or Risks

Green values have grown stronger over the past few years and this has led to the adoption of green behaviour by individuals, corporations and governments worldwide. Governments across the globe have developed legislation and policy to bring about cuts in carbon emissions. Enterprises are now increasingly focused on greening the economy and this has led to new innovations that contribute to more environmentally friendly processes. There are many green processes and workers need OH&S training to be aware of the hazards related to such jobs. What is good for the environment might not necessarily be good for the health and safety of employees in green jobs. New technologies need new combinations of skills and methods to deal with them in a safe manner. For example, installing a solar water heater needs a combination of the skills of a plumber, a roofer and an electrician. Green jobs create opportunities to revive the economy but workers in these jobs may face common hazards in the workplace such as fire, confined spaces, trips and falls etc., and may also be exposed to hazards that have not been identified previously.

  • Green construction and building modification: Workers are at risk of exposure to materials during renovations including asbestos. Retrofitting new technologies in the building (for example renewable energy technologies), might involve working at heights which in itself is a high-risk factor. Workers onsite may also get exposed to hazardous chemicals and dust. Another issue might be lack of ventilation.
  • Wind Energy: To ensure effectiveness of the wind turbines and systems, upkeep and maintenance is required which puts workers in high-risk situations as such jobs require climbing and working in towers. Older installations might not have lifts and other ergonomic features, posing higher physical risks.
  • Recycling and Waste Management: Even though current waste volumes are reducing as a result of increased recycling processes and increased green values, there is still inherited waste to be dealt with. Waste volume from the construction industry remains high. The quality of waste management has improved. However, there is still a lack of a centralised system to deal with waste in many parts of the world. In many countries, there is a high manual component involved in dealing with waste and a moderately low level of automation. Workers are at risk of exposure to safety hazards and health hazards of which they might not even be aware. Increasing use of biomass means exposure to allergens and toxins.
  • Green Transportation: Most new technology in vehicles is electrical or hybrid. Main advantages of such technologies are to promote less fuel consumption and emit less Carbon Dioxide. Rapid recharging or swapping the batteries may present hazards. Electric vehicles are mostly serviced and maintained by garages rather than specialists. Workers might not be aware of the high voltages involved or might not be sufficiently trained to work on an electric vehicle, hence face electrocution risks. Electric Vehicles pose risks of fire and explosion too, especially in case of an accident.

H&S Measures in Green Jobs

A few important considerations to ensure safety and health for workers in green jobs:

  • To understand how a job might affect worker’s health and safety, defining and categorising sustainable jobs and related work practices is the first crucial step.
  • Green technologies and processes must be evaluated for workers’ health and safety like any other new job, process or product. Such an evaluation would highlight associated risks and hazards which can then be controlled or prevented.
  • Prevention against such risks may also be ensured by early planning and implementation of health and safety measures and controlling risks at the source.
  • Training plays an important role to help workers develop new skills for the job. Health and safety should be included as a critical element in all green job training.

Green Jobs in a Green Economy

In the interest of increasing awareness and responsibility towards our planet, existing business are adopting more environmentally friendly processes. New Green businesses like renewable energy generation, recycling, waste management etc. are creating employment all over the world.  The production of cleaner automobiles reduces carbon emissions and creates skilled jobs.

The main feature of a green economy is to recognise the economic value of our natural capital and resources and realise the need to protect those resources in the long run. A green economy will ultimately lead us to sustainability meanwhile improving human well-being and social equality and reducing environmental sacrifices and risks. A green economy is a result of innovative thinking and creation of green jobs that continuously contribute to sustainability. Such an economy must aim to eradicate poverty, improve human welfare and create employment.

 

Sources

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

International Labour Organisation

Tags
Green Energy , Renewable Energy , Sustainable Future , Sustainable living
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