Sustainability and Safety

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Michael Robbinson
Environmental Health & Safety

No matter what type of work we perform, we need to focus on doing that work safely, without injury to employees or to people in the communities where we work.  “Safety First” is a maxim that applies to “green jobs” too.

According to OSHA, green jobs are defined broadly as jobs that help to improve the environment as well as create opportunities to help revitalize the economy and get people back to work.  Workers in the green industries can expect to face hazards that are commonly known in many workplaces, such as falls, being struck by moving equipment, confined spaces, electrical, fire, and more.  Additionally, workers may be exposed to new hazards. For example, workers in the solar energy industry may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if adequate controls are not implemented.

OSHA requires employers to comply with Federal or State safety and health standards and regulations.  In addition to those regulations, OSHA has a “General Duty Clause” that requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In the absence of an OSHA standard, OSHA can enforce the General Duty Clause.

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.  Design engineers should work with safety and health professionals in “designing out” hazards throughout the design phase of their products, as well as for their safety for the communities in which these green projects are implemented.  See National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) efforts on PtD and its blog on green jobs.

Visit OSHA’s web site information on green jobs and other helpful reference materials.

Remember, no matter what work we are doing, the first thing we must do is take a moment and think through how we are going to that that work safely.  After all, what could be more important than every person being able to go home at the end of their day in as good a condition as when they arrived at work?

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