Green Jobs are defined as jobs that help improve the environment.  In addition to revitalizing the economy by putting people back to work, they help the public become more aware of the ways we can all help our planet, each by doing his part to keep Mother Earth in better shape.  Green jobs are not always safe jobs, as we will point out some of the hazards that workers face in two particular “green job” fields:  Biofuels and Green Roofs.  Other green jobs are Wind Energy, Solar, Geo-Thermal Energy, Weather Insulation/Sealing, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, and Recycling, which we will cover in different segments. 

Biofuels have become a fast growing part of the energy sector, because demand for low-carbon impact, domestically produced fuels has increased.  These are created from renewable resources, such as plant biomass, vegetable oils, grains, and treated municipal and industrial wastes.  They can involve potentially dangerous situations, because they are combustible or flammable.  Workers must be protected from hazards of these fuels during their production processes.  The two types of biofuels that are currently being produced in the United States are Ethanol and Biodiesel.     

  • Ethanol is a flammable liquid that is readily ignited at ordinary temperatures.  Renewable ethanol is produced by fermented grains, or by using advanced technologies, from cellulosic materials such as waste paper, wood chips, and agricultural wastes.  The production process can involve other hazardous materials, such as bases, gasoline, and acids.  Up to 10% ethanol is blended with gasoline in most automotive fuel currently sold in the U.S.  Higher ethanol blends up to “E85” (85% ethanol blended with gasoline) are available in some parts of the country.
  • Biodiesel is a combustible liquid that burns readily when heated.  Blending with petroleum diesel fuel or contamination by materials used in manufacturing can increase its flammability.  Biodiesel is produced by combining organic materials, such as vegetable oils, with an alcohol (typically methanol), and using a strong base, such as a caustic, as a catalyst.  Glycerin, a combustible liquid, is produced as a by-product.  The caustic is neutralized with acid, typically sulfuric acid.  All of these materials may require careful management to protect workers.  Biodiesel is widely available.

This type of work will require extensive safety planning and training and the correct type of personal protective equipment (PPE), for workers who are exposed to the making of these biofuels.  From eyewear and face protection, to protective clothing and gloves, employers must  provide PPE to their employees. 

Green Roofs are steadily growing in popularity throughout urban areas in the United States.  The oldest Green Roof in the U.S. is on top of Rockefeller Center in New York.  Although the Rockefeller rooftop garden was built in 1930, interest in Green Roof technology has only occurred within the last 15 years.  Chicago, New York, and Portland are leaders in implementing Green Roof technology in the U.S.   Landscapers and roofing contractors are becoming more involved with installing green roofs, which are most often installed by green roof specialty companies.  Maintenance of a green roof falls under OSHA’s general industry standards.  The safety challenges associated with this growing industry have some new and often familiar safety issues.  In addition to wearing the proper type of PPE that fits the job, fall-arrest systems are very important. 

We will talk more about other green jobs soon.  In the meantime, if you are sipping a cool one on your “green roof” or driving to your favorite pub in your ethanol-burning new vehicle, have a safe and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!   If you aren’t doing either of those things, have a good time celebrating with the Irish!  (Don’t forget to wear green.)