There are benefits as well as challenges of moving to a green economy, reports NIOSH. Green jobs, defined broadly as jobs that help to improve the environment, create opportunities to help battle a sagging economy and get people back to work, according to the Institute.

But NIOSH warns that the heightened attention on green jobs and environmental sustainability cannot come at the expense of worker safety and health. 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.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), passed in early 2009, creates jobs to deliver on investments in industries such as energy, utilities, construction, and manufacturing, as well as job training. As traditional jobs evolve to meet new challenges, workers may be faced with known risks that had not previously affected their occupation, according to NIOSH.

NIOSH envisions opportunities to eliminate hazards through planning, organization, and engineering – a concept known at NIOSH as Prevention through Design (PtD).

For the product of work to be truly sustainable, the work itself must also be sustainable, says the Institute. 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 U.S. moves toward sustainability and acts quickly to train workers for new occupations and new ways of working, NIOSH contents there are 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.