Danish workers have a positive outlook on the effects of the green transition on their jobs. Figure 3 demonstrated that 37% expect a positive effect on their occupation while only 7% expect a negative effect. Of the workers who expect that the green transition will have positive effects, approximately half of them expect that it will improve health and safety at work.
However, at good working environment is not achieved without an effort. It must be actively integrated as a perspective of the transition. Both at the society level and at the workplace level.
Known and unknown risks
The green transition and a good working environment can and must go hand in hand. We must promote and use the potentials to promote health and safety at work and we must prevent and avoid health and safety risks.
With the new green jobs, the need for preventing the “classic physical health and safety problems” becomes relevant again since many climate initiatives are very much expected to lead to growth in green manufacturing industries.
This requires increased and renewed attention to physical health and safety issues as in connection with hard physical labour, workplace accidents and exposure to chemicals.
In addition to this, it is expected that green jobs have unknown risks that we will only learn about as the green transition moves forward.
Figure 21 illustrates how new green jobs bring attention to both the need to focus on classic health and safety problem and open up to new risk factors that need to be prevented.
The green transition will affect all professions. The following paragraphs will provide four examples of areas that will grow and which require particular attention to health and safety at work.
Expansion of wind energy
In connection with a coming expansion of the wind power sector, there will be a particular need to prevent serious workplace accidents, as experience shows a risk of – both in connection with the production of towers and blades and in connection with the installation of wind turbines – not least offshore.
Research shows that a good health and safety culture is crucial. There is therefore a need to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) due to heavy work with heavy lifting and awkward postures.
Finally, there will be need for special attention to the uses of isocyanates and epoxy, which have been causing major problems with allergies and eczema among the workers in Danish wind turbine factories.
Energy efficiency measures, buildings and construction
In connection with the renovation of older buildings and energy efficiency measures on public housing, attention must be paid to preventing the known risk factors in the building and construction sector.
These are risks such as workplace accidents, falls and risks in connection with heavy work, heavy lifting and awkward postures, and when it comes to well-known problems with asbestos, PCB, lead and insulating compounds in the older public stock of buildings.
Recycling and sorting of waste
FH proposes a commitment to the circular economy. And fortunately, this is already gaining traction. As described, the circular economy is about moving from linear production to methods of production where materials are maintained in a circuit and the need for new raw materials is reduced.
This is seen in waste management, for example. Here, the circuit approach is increasingly used with inspiration from the “craddle-to-craddle”-concept. All waste products are considered as possible starting points for new production
Waste sorting and recycling are beneficial seen from a green sustainability perspective, but we also need to ensure that it is safe and healthy to work with. Some risks are already known to us.
We know that waste sorting involves the risk of exposure to biological agents, including micro-organisms which can, among others, lead to respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, eczema and allergies.
We also know that exposure to heavy metals, among others in connection with recycling, can cause cancer and damage the nervous system. In this way, workers in a British company were exposed to mercury poisoning when working on the separation and recycling parts from fluorescent light bulbs.
There is a need for increased attention to be paid to which products we recycle and how. Here, the focus should be on how the products are designed and manufactured with a view to ensuring “safe and healthy” recycling.
New technologies and materials
New technologies and new materials, such as nanotechnology, involve unknown risks. As more and more electric cars and hybrid cars come into circulation, new health and safety challenges will emerge.
Exposed wires, water in the car or fire in the battery in electric cars and hybrid cars involve entirely different risks than those we know from fossil fuel cars. For example, it is far from risk-free for medics to cut an injured person out of an electric car.
Enhanced efforts and requirements
Based on the above, FH proposes the initiatives summed up in box 14. Better monitoring, guidelines, coordination and incorporation of requirements in a number of areas are to ensure that the green transition does not just create more jobs but also good jobs.
Box 14: FH proposes
- Monitoring health and safety at work in connection with the green transition and new green jobs
- New and revised guidelines for safeguarding health and safety at work in connection with the green transition from the professional branches for health and safety at work
- Coordinated initiatives between the National Working Environment Authority and the Working Environment Councils in selected green industries
- Research into new health and safety challenges in connection with the green transition, including whether current rules are up-to-date and whether there are possibilities for substitution of dangerous substances
- Requirements for workers participation in product- and process design.
- Requirements for health and safety standards in tendering of major green projects
- Incorporating occupational health and safety indicators and concerns into the work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals – particularly when it comes to the goal on “good health and well-being“
- Increased focus on a safety and prevention culture in green jobs with a view to preventing workplace accidents and health hazards