Green is commonly associated with things that are good for our environment. Now we use "green" to describe products, industries, the economy and even jobs, and as a verb - greening - to describe the process. There is a growing movement to improve and protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions, pollution and waste, and a shift toward more energy efficient and environmentally friendly practices. Along with the benefits of "greening the economy" come changes to traditional jobs as well as the creation of new kinds of jobs - and with these changes come new challenges to worker health and safety.
"Green" jobs cover a wide range of jobs in different sectors, but all contribute in some way, to preserving or restoring the environment. They can include jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity, reduce usage of energy and raw materials, or reduce waste and pollution. Many new green jobs are actually old jobs that have shifted over to cleaner, greener industries, and/or are in conventional sectors that are making real efforts to green its operations. Waste management and recycling workers have to handle products that may be energy efficient but may contain highly toxic substances, for example lithium in electric car batteries.
New technologies or work processes designed to protect the environment can lead to new hazards or to new combinations of hazards. For example, workers who install solar panels on rooftops are faced with a combination of hazards similar to those faced by roofers and electricians. Like roofers, they use ladders and scaffolding and are at risk of falling from heights. And like electricians, they face electrocution and burns from contact with overhead lines while installing solar panels.
Health and safety and labour organizations in Europe and North America have expressed a shared sentiment that these emerging jobs need to be good for workers, as well as for the environment. And with the green economy expected to grow quickly, there is concern that skills gaps could be created, and put workers, inexperienced and not properly trained in the new processes, at risk for injury.
The way forward
A report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests that "a true green job must integrate safety and health into design, procurement, operations, maintenance sourcing, use and recycling". They emphasize that policy changes are necessary to support approaches such as "prevention through design" when creating green jobs.
The North American Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), as part of their Prevention through Design (PtD) initiative, is developing a framework to create awareness, provide guidance, and address occupational safety and health issues associated with green jobs. Basically PtD is a concept that promotes eliminating hazards at the design stage of a project.
Prevention through design addresses workplace health and safety needs, and involves preventing or minimizing the work-related hazards and risks to workers, through the planning, engineering and design of the work, process and equipment. A growing number of businesses, organizations, and countries are supporting and implementing PtD concepts to pre-empt and "design out" hazards.
In addition, to prepare workers for new occupations and new ways of working, employers must ensure that employees receive adequate, relevant health and safety training and information. By assuming a proactive approach to hazard elimination in green jobs, therein lays an opportunity to improve the health and safety of workers in general.
Tips & Tools
If you've ever slipped on an oily patch of floor or tripped over a loose piece of carpeting you know how easy it can be to take a fall. And if you did fall, you would join the more than 42,000 people who get injured each year in work-related falls. That's about seventeen percent of the "time-loss injuries" across Canada as well as a lot of economic loss, pain and suffering, and sometimes even death.
You may be surprised to learn that most falls don't happen from roofs, ladders, or any other heights. In fact, around sixty-six percent of falls happen on the same level, caused by slips and trips. Here are some things you should know to prevent "falls on the same level".
Slips and trips happen when there is some unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or floor. Keeping that in mind, there are four factors that should be addressed in preventing fall accidents: 1) good housekeeping; 2) quality of walking surfaces (flooring); 3) proper footwear; and 4) pace of walking.
This is the first and the most important factor in preventing falls due to slips and trips. Be sure to:
- clean all spills immediately and mark spills and wet areas.
- mop or sweep debris from floors.
- remove obstacles from walkways and always keep them free of clutter.
- secure mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat with tape, tacks, etc.
- close file cabinet or storage drawers.
- cover cables that cross walkways.
- keep working areas and walkways well lit; replace used light bulbs and faulty switches.
Changing or modifying walking surfaces to provide "sure footing" is an important step in preventing slips and trips. Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking can further improve safety and reduce the risk of falling. Also, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and can help prevent slips.
In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet or where workers spend a lot of time outdoors, selecting proper footwear is essential to preventing fall accidents. Since there is no anti-slip footwear ideal for every condition, it is recommended that you consult with manufacturers for the available options best suited to your needs. Wearing footwear that fits properly increases your comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves your safety.
Steps you can take to avoid falling at work
Safety is everybody's business; however, it is employers' responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees. As an employee there are steps you can take to avoid falling at work.
You can reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:
- taking your time and paying attention to where you are going.
- walking at a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing.
- walking with your feet pointed slightly outward.
- making wide turns at corners.
You can reduce the risk of tripping by:
- keeping walking areas clear from clutter or obstructions.
- keeping flooring in good condition.
- using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks.
- using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light.
- ensuring that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.
Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls fact sheet
Preventing Falls From Slips and Trips e-course
Canada's North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week will be launched May 6th from the City of North Vancouver in British Columbia (BC). The program includes a dramatic sequence of marine rescues, an on the water fire fighting demonstration, a high angle rescue from a crane, and a hazardous materials decontamination demonstration.
Lunch is being generously provided by White Spot's Food Truck and more than 20 interactive exhibitors will offer simulators, health and safety practical tips and demos, personal bio-metric testing, give a-ways, contests, and draws. Keynote speaker Walter Gretzky along with Paralympian Josh Dueck will speak at the outdoor event and meet with the public.
When and where
The public national launch activities will take place Monday, May 6, 2013 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Shipbuilders Square, just east of Lonsdale Quay along the waterfront, in the City of North Vancouver. There's no cost to attend.
About NAOSH Week
North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week runs May 5-11. With "Are you as safe as you think?" as the theme, NAOSH Week strives to focus the attention of employers, employees, the general public, and all workplace safety and health partners on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.
NAOSH Week is led by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), Threads of Life, and Labour Program, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). NAOSH Week continues to be a truly continent-wide event, celebrated in Canada, along with North American partners in the United States and Mexico.
Find ideas and information about NAOSH Week on the website.
Find out more about the national launch in BC.
See CCOHS News to find out what CCOHS has to offer for NAOSH Week.
Health and Safety To Go
This month's Health and Safety To Go! podcasts offer an update on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), and feature an encore presentation on developing an emergency preparedness plan for workplaces.
Feature Podcast: GHS Update
Lorraine Davison, Manager of Chemical Services at CCOHS, discusses updates to the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) and what Canadian workplaces can do to prepare.
The podcast runs 7:03 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace
We don't always know when an emergency will occur; they can happen fast, with little warning. What we do know is that planning ahead and preparing can help you and your organization cope better during and after a major disaster, and minimize the impact on families, workplaces, and the community. This podcast offers tips for workplaces in developing an emergency preparedness plan.
The podcast runs 3:40 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week is upon us. If you are looking for ideas on how you or your organization can put health and safety in the spotlight at your workplace, CCOHS has a few suggestions. Sign up the for the free live webinars on Arthritis and Workplace Health and WHMIS After GHS For Employers and/or download the free workers' rights poster.
You do not need a microphone or a telephone to listen to the webinars - just listen to the presentation through your computer's speakers or headphones. These are live events that require pre-registration.
Arthritis & Workplace Health: Ensuring Employees Reach Their Full Potential
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EDT
Length: 60 Minutes
Presenter: Janet Yale, President and CEO, The Arthritis Society
The Arthritis Society's President and CEO Janet Yale takes participants through an evidence-based primer on how to create a workplace that can help prevent arthritis, and enhances the productivity and potential of all employees. The webinar will also discuss how The Arthritis Society is working with government, private payers, employers and other stakeholders to ensure all Canadians living with arthritis reach their full potential at work.
Register for the webinar.
WHMIS After GHS For Employers
Thursday, May 9, 2013 1:00 - 1:45 p.m. EDT
Length: 45 Minutes
Presenter: Sandy Bello, Technical Specialist, CCOHS
Employers, what does GHS mean to you? This webinar provides a quick overview of GHS as it relates to WHMIS, identifies what's new, what's changed, what's stayed the same and important timelines. Learn about pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements. Get ready!
Register for the webinar.
Three Basic Rights of Canadian Workers
Across Canada there are laws in place to protect workers - including young and new workers - on the job. This legislation gives three important rights to all workers to ensure that they have the knowledge they need to be safe on the job and the freedom to participate in health and safety activities in their workplace. These rights include: the right to know; the right to participate; and the right to refuse unsafe work.
Download the free poster.
For more ideas and information about NAOSH Week, visit the NAOSH website.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2016, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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