As part of the Prevention through Design (PtD) initiative, I mentioned last time, NIOSH and its partners are developing a framework to create awareness, provide guidance, and address occupational safety and health issues associated with green jobs and sustainability efforts. 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. Yet, with the heightened attention on green jobs and environmental sustainability, it is important to make sure that worker safety and health are not overlooked.
Walking towards the new investments in our Nation’s future, creating jobs to deliver on those investments in industries such as energy, utilities, construction, and manufacturing, as well as job training are important. The new focus, coupled with the move in America towards energy efficiency and more environmentally-friendly practices, is resulting in changes to traditional jobs and the creation of new kinds of occupations.
As the industries are marching towards technological advances, we need to remain vigilant in protecting workers against emerging hazards. As traditional jobs evolve to meet new challenges, workers may be faced with known risks that had not previously affected their occupation. These changes may also present us with the opportunity to eliminate hazards through planning, organization, and engineering – a concept known as Prevention through Design (PtD). The framework matrix below illustrates how our knowledge about old and new hazards intersects with challenges created by new technologies and adaptations of work activities to perform green jobs.
For the product of work to be truly sustainable, the work itself must also be sustainable. Sustainability must include worker safety and green jobs must be safe jobs. As the Nation moves towards sustainability and acts quickly to train workers for new occupations and new ways of working, we have unprecedented opportunities: