Global: Red alert on the perils of green jobs

Photo: Jawad Qasrawi
Recycling, clean energy, energy conservation – we’ve been told to expect a “green jobs” bonanza. But a spate of fatalities and poisonings in the sector show more work needs to be done to make the jobs as good for workers as they are for the environment, according to a new report from Hazards magazine.

It says depending who you believe, the green industries gold rush could result in anything from 400,000 to well over 1 million new “green collar” jobs in the UK. It warns, however, that far from being our economic and employment salvation, left to its own devices the green economy could deliver the same unhealthy mix of hire-and-fire, poison-and-pain jobs that remain a blight on the reputational landscape of the not-so-green economy.

“This isn’t paranoia. It’s already happening, and it is happening on a grand scale,” the report says. It points to recent fatalities, poisonings and occupational disease outbreaks in UK green firms to illustrate the point.

“Creating good green jobs is not something that will happen by accident,” it concludes. “Bad jobs are not a green solution for the UK. It will take a concerted union effort to make sure the green jobs agenda doesn’t save the environment but cost lives.”

The article highlights problems from traditional hazards like falls from heights and toxic chemicals, and from the use of novel substances and technologies where risks might not yet be fully apparent. A new ‘safe jobs, green jobs’ web resource provides pointers on how to avoid potential pitfalls.

 See the full feature: Green collared, Hazards magazine, number 107, summer 2009. Safe jobs, green jobs web resource • 15 August 2009

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