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PREVENTION THROUGH DESIGN

Green, Safe and Healthy Jobs

 

Overview

There benefits as well as challenges of moving to a green economy. 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. As part of the Prevention through Design (PtD) initiative, 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. Keep checking back to this page for updates.


Green Jobs Spotlights

Background

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) , passed in early 2009, makes new investments in our Nation’s future. This includes creating jobs to deliver on those investments in industries such as energy, utilities, construction, and manufacturing, as well as job training. 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 we make technological advances in industry, 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 at NIOSH 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.

 

Green Jobs Occupational Hazards Chart

 

For the product of work to be truly sustainable, the work itself must also be sustainable. It must protect not only the surrounding environment and its end-users, but also the workers who are producing it. 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:

  • to enhance the safety and health protection of the American workforce
  • to expand and apply our knowledge in occupational safety and health to new workplaces, processes, and products being formed each day
  • to ensure the training and re-training of the workforce that will fill these new jobs includes relevant safety and health information.

Related NIOSH Safety and Health Topics

Agriculture
Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, noise-induced hearing loss, skin diseases, and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. Farming is one of the few industries in which the families (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for injuries, illness, and death.

Chemicals
Chemicals and chemical exposures have been studied in many workplaces and job activities. Hazard assessments and recommendations to minimize exposures can be found in NIOSH resources for many workplace chemicals, from acrylamide to xylene.

Construction
Over 11 million construction workers build and maintain roads, houses, workplaces and physical infrastructure. This work includes many inherently hazardous tasks and conditions such as work at height, excavations, noise, dust, power tools and equipment, confined spaces, and electricity. Construction has about 8% of U.S. workers, but 22% of the fatalities - the largest number of fatalities reported for any of the industry sectors.

Electrical Safety
Electrical current exposes workers to a serious, widespread occupational hazard; practically all members of the workforce are exposed to electrical energy during the performance of their daily duties, and electrocutions occur to workers in various job categories. Many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to the danger of electrocution. Electrical injuries consist of four main types: electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns, and falls caused as a result of contact with electrical energy.

Falls from Elevation
Falls from elevation hazards are present at most every jobsite, and many workers are exposed to these hazards daily. Any walking/working surface could be a potential fall hazard. An unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet or more above a lower level should be protected from falling by the use of a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system. These hazardous exposures exist in many forms, and can be as seemingly innocuous as changing a light bulb from a step ladder to something as high-risk as connecting bolts on high steel at 200 feet in the air.

Hazards and Exposures
From abrasive blasting to West Nile Virus, a broad spectrum of occupational hazards and exposures has been studied in many workplaces and job activities. Hazard assessments and recommendations to minimize exposures and address hazards can be found in this collection of NIOSH resources.

Hazards to Outdoor Workers
Outdoor workers are exposed to many types of hazards that depend on their type of work, geographic region, season, and duration of time they are outside. Industry sectors with outdoor workers include the agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction, mining, transportation, warehousing, utilities, and service sectors. Outdoor workers include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, gardeners, painters, roofers, pavers, construction workers, laborers, mechanics, and any other worker who spends time outside. Employers should train outdoor workers about their workplace hazards, including hazard identification and recommendations for preventing and controlling their exposures.

Highway Work Zone Safety
Fatal highway incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal workplace event, accounting for one in every four fatalities nationally in 2007. Fatal highway incidents fell by 3 percent in 2007, accounting for 1,311 worker deaths, the lowest since 1993. Nonhighway incidents (such as those that might occur on a farm or industrial premises) stayed about the same. The number of workers who were killed after being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment fell from 379 in 2006 to 342 in 2007.

Machine Safety
Workers are killed or injured as result of hazardous contact with machinery and equipment. Some of the leading causes of injuries (especially in Agriculture, Mining, Manufacturing and Construction) include being struck by or against an object, caught in or compressed by equipment, and caught in or crushed in collapsing materials.

Manufacturing
Activities within the Manufacturing sector range from food and textile processing and production, to metals processing and heavy equipment production, to oil refining and chemical production. Processes can range from production of bulk materials like minerals, metals, and chemicals, to the production of small or intricate items such as electronics, specialty chemicals, or nanoparticles.

Nanotechnology
NIOSH is at the forefront of U.S. research to understand the occupational health implications of nanomaterials, offering interim guidelines for working safely with nanomaterials, consistent with the best scientific knowledge.

Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention
Noise is not a new hazard. It has been a constant threat since the industrial revolution. Too much noise exposure may cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a temporary ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems usually go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noise. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent, incurable hearing loss or tinnitus. NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protectors in those situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been controlled or eliminated.

Protective Clothing
NIOSH’s Protective Clothing and Ensembles Program is aimed at protecting the skin from various health hazards that may be encountered in the workplace or during a terrorist attack. The program has evolved over the years to incorporate a broad range of studies of how chemicals seep through barrier materials, leak through small holes, or change the barrier material to reduce its protection.

Respirators
While respirators should only be used as a "last line of defense" in an exposure control hierarchy, NIOSH issues recommendations for respirator use when engineering control systems and other precautions are not feasible. These recommendations and other research to evaluate respiratory effectiveness are described in many NIOSH resources developed in accordance with the NIOSH federal respiratory regulations 42 CFR Part 84 and in concert with various partners from government and industry.

Services
More than 65 million workers were employed in the 11 NAICS service industries. Occupations within these industries account for 50.5% of U.S. workers, 29% of workplace fatalities and 23% of nonfatal injuries, according to 2004 BLS data. The two leading causes of fatal injuries in most service industries are transportation incidents and violence. Otherwise, the types of hazards across industries in the NIOSH Services sector vary substantially.

Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities
More than 7 million workers in transportation, warehousing, and utilities industries are at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. Occupations within these industries account for 5% of U.S. workers and 15% of workplace fatalities. Workers employed in truck transportation account for 58% of the fatalities in transportation, warehousing, and utilities industries. In addition to being at risk of fatal injuries, workers in these industries are at risk of injury or illness from transportation incidents, overexertion, electrocution, vehicle emissions, and falls.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: October 9, 2013
  • Page last updated: October 9, 2013
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