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Green jobs are being defined broadly as jobs that help to improve the environment. These jobs also create opportunities to help revitalize the economy and get people back to work. Green jobs do not necessarily mean that they are safe jobs. Workers in the green industries may face hazards that are commonly known in workplaces -- such as falls, confined spaces, electrical, fire, and other similar hazards. These hazards may be new to many workers who are moving into fast- growing green industries. Additionally, workers may be exposed to new hazards which may not have been previously identified. For example, workers in the solar energy industry may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if adequate controls are not implemented.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In the absence of an OSHA standard, OSHA can enforce the General Duty Clause. OSHA standards cover many of the hazards in green industries and employers must use the necessary controls to protect workers. Click on the industry icon on this page to get more information about some of the hazards in the industry and the OSHA standards that may apply.
A key concept for all industries, but especially those that are just beginning to grow, is "Prevention through Design (PtD)" – designing the process/equipment in a way that eliminates hazards to the workers who use them. Employers should have a system in place where safety and health professionals work with design engineers in "designing out" hazards throughout the design phase of their products. See NIOSH's efforts on PtD and its blog on green jobs.
OSHA is committed to helping workers and employers ensure that green jobs are safe jobs. See Assistant Secretary Michael's remarks from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's Going Green Workshop. Read about Dr. Michaels' participation in the U.S.-Canada-European Commission Trilateral Roundtable on the Employment Dimension of the Transition to a Green Economy.
U.S. Department of Energy
Blue Green Alliance
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work