With the state of the economy in the United States, it is very important that we search for and support those who are developing important strategies in creating clean and renewable energy. By investing in clean energy, industries can create thousands of new “green” jobs. It’s already taking place throughout the country. By laying the foundation for young generations, the people who work in “green” jobs are forging a new way of life for all of us.
Solar energy is a growing sector for green energy and green jobs. Two viable solar energy sectors are solar electric and solar thermal or solar water heating. By concentrating solar power, solar energy is converted into electricity using photovoltaics. PV systems are the most common and use semi-conductors and sunlight to make electricity. Solar water heating systems include direct and indirect (Glycol) systems and are determined mostly by climate.
Worker’s health and safety hazards exist in installation, manufacture, and maintenance of solar energy. Workers must understand how to protect themselves from the hazards involved, and employers must protect their workers from these hazards. OSHA’s Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Standard (29 CFR 1910.269), covers the safe work practices and worker training requirements. Although solar energy is a growing industry, the hazards are not unique. Some of the hazards that workers in the solar industry may face are:
- Crane and Hoist Safety. Cranes must be inspected and used properly.
- Electrical hazards;
- Heat/Cold Stress. Workers often work in hot weather where hazards include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death. Workers should be monitored by the employer and trained to identify and report symptoms of any heat-related illness. They may also be exposed to cold weather conditions and should be protected from such conditions.
Wind energy is another important “green” job. In our part of the country, these huge “windmills” are popping up everywhere! These turbines generate electricity from wind, and are being installed all across the nation. Wind energy workers face many of the same hazards as those in the solar power industry:
- Confined spaces. If the employee is working in a space large enough to enter and perform assigned work, but is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee, and has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.
- Crane and Hoist Safety;
- Heat/Cold Stress.
Of course, the hazards and risks of any particular job require the use of personal protective equipment right for the job. Those working in solar energy or wind energy fields may require using safety glasses, hard hats, head protection, gloves, respirators, or other PPE.
“Green” jobs offer work to those who are already trained in specific occupations – such as welders, electricians, and construction workers. Besides helping our country be more environmentally conscious, these jobs provide new careers with livable wages. We must put our fellow Americans back to work. Most of the hazards we have described are commonplace to many occupations. Training and educating employees in these jobs is a very important part of our future. Regardless of having a blue-collar job, white-collar job, or “green” job, risks exist, and it is the responsibility of the employer to fulfill its obligation to provide their workers with a safe environment.