10/23/2013

'Green jobs' and occupational safety and health: Foresight on new and emerging risks associated with new technologies by 2020

In order to meet its environmental targets, the EU is set for a rapid growth of
the green economy. It is therefore important to anticipate new and emerging
risks to occupational safety and health (OSH) in 'green jobs' in order to
ensure that these jobs are not only good for the environment but also for
workers' safety and health.

‘Green jobs' is a generic term encompassing a broad range of jobs in different
sectors, with different working conditions and working processes and involving
a diverse workforce. Therefore, when devising a prevention strategy for green
jobs, the specificities of the different types of green jobs have to be taken
into account. A sectoral approach may be appropriate, although even within one
sector there will be different types of green jobs with specific conditions to
consider. Still, as diverse as green jobs may be, there a number of common
challenges.

The first of these challenges is an increasing trend towards decentralised work
processes and a widely distributed nature of the work. As workplaces are
therefore getting more dispersed and more difficult to reach, monitoring and
enforcing good OSH conditions and safe working practices is likely to become
more challenging. Decentralisation is the case, for example, in the generation
of renewable energy with a diversity of distributed, small-scale installations.
Such energy systems, especially when installed by new, unskilled entrants in
the sector (or by do-it-yourself enthusiasts) are likely to be non-standard
installations which may be dangerous, in particular to maintenance workers.
With the large diversity and number of energy providers connected to the grid,
there may also be difficulties to control a complex grid linked to a two-way
transmission.

The manufacturing sector is, for example, also likely to undergo significant
changes as advanced manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing, offer
greater flexibility, allowing mass customisation to become economically viable,
possibly resulting in decentralised, local manufacturing. An increase of local
manufacturing plants could mean widely distributed hazards in small units, with
new groups of workers exposed to manufacturing risks. Mass customisation with
batch sizes of one could also lead to product safety and OSH issues, where
items are one-offs and OSH standards are difficult to define or enforce.

Partly linked to decentralisation, a growth in the use of sub-contracted
work as well as an increase in self-employment and micro and small enterprises
may be expected, and not only in the energy and manufacturing sectors. The
growing area of green transport for example may be seen as a job opportunity by
‘mobility self-entrepreneurs', using new types of green vehicles such as ‘cargo
bikes' for the delivery of people, goods and services. The counterpart is that
these economic structures may have a lower OSH awareness and culture, fewer
resources available for OSH and less access to OSH services.

A full report with details on the methodology and findings as well as possible
future scenarios for OSH in green jobs, given developments in green
technologies, under different economic and social conditions is available.

More information


AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work