Thursday, January 27, 2011

OSHA Website Focuses On Green Job Hazards

Wind Farm in California
The Occupational Safety and Health Adminisitration (OSHA) standards cover many of the hazards in green industries and employers must use the necessary controls to protect workers.  The green industry is being defined broadly as an industry that helps to improve the environment.  The jobs created by this green industry (typically called green jobs) also create opportunities to help revitalize the economy and get people back to work.  Examples of the different green industries include:
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 the fast-growing green industries.  Additionally, workers may be exposed to new hazards which may not have been previously identified.  An example of this are 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 regulations promulgated by OSHA.  In addition, the OSH 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. 
One of the 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.  The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a web page discussing this concept, visit it at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/PTD/.  The basic premise of this is to address occupational safety and health needs in the design process (having occupational safety and health professionals working with design engineers) to prevent or minimize the work-related hazards and risks associated with the construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and disposal of facilities, materials, and equipment.  If the design eliminates the hazard before what is being designed is built, then the hazards may never be created.  Visit OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/dep/greenjobs/index.html to better understand the job hazards in each of the different green industries.

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