Green builders don’t build in safety

Not enough is being done to ensure green jobs are safe jobs, a US union health and safety expert has warned.

Walter Jones, a safety specialist with the union-run Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, told delegates to the American Public Health Association annual conference in Philadelphia this week that the shift toward greener buildings hasn’t done much to make the construction or maintenance of these places safe for workers.

He indicated that designers of buildings don’t generally pay much attention to the hazards inherent in building them, and design schools don’t tend to include occupational health and safety in their curricula. Jones noted that between 1990 and 2003, 42 per cent of all US construction-related fatalities were linked to design.

He said, for example, when it comes to wind turbines, fall protection is also crucial, and the inside of the tower is a confined space – but designers rarely address anchor points or tower access and ventilation issues.

Liz Borkowski, writing in The Pump Handle, an influential US public health blog, reports occupational health and safety advocates are working to get safety issues on designers’ radar. The American Association of Safety Engineers has begun working on a standard to protect workers involved in windpower facilities.

A ‘Greenwash’ feature in Hazards magazine this month warned that many supposedly green jobs were really old-fashioned hazardous jobs repackaged in green livery. It argued unions should campaign for new jobs that are good for the environment and for the greening of old jobs – but said new jobs should also be decent, healthy, safe, well-paid and union organised.

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