Green Jobs: Are They as Hazardous as Traditional Jobs?

Green Jobs: Are They as Hazardous as Traditional Jobs?

The renewable energy job sector is surging in Indiana—green jobs associated with such employment amount to 2.7 percent of our workforce. Indiana’s share of renewable energy jobs, 83,752, is the second highest of all the Midwest states. And, within our state, Indianapolis (Marion County) leads the pack.

While we might imagine some green jobs to be safer, “nicer” jobs, the fact is that the workplace injuries and fatalities from such jobs are very much like those in more traditional industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Indiana’s Green Jobs Profile

“Clean energy” jobs span industries from the renewable energy field to auto manufacturing to HVAC installation. In our state, the four largest areas in which green jobs are found are:

  • Energy efficiency (high-efficiency HVAC installation and retrofitting, lighting, and materials): 64.4 percent of green jobs
  • Advanced transportation (hybrid and fully electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and alternative fuels): 17.3 percent of green jobs
  • Renewable energy (solar installation, wind turbines, and geothermal): 12.8 percent of green jobs
  • Advanced grid (energy storage, smart grids, microgrids, and grid modernization): 4.6 percent of green jobs.

More than 80 percent of Indiana’s clean energy jobs are found in construction and manufacturing. It turns out these jobs carry risks that are similar to any other construction and manufacturing job.

So, Are Greener Jobs Safer Jobs?

Often, the answer to the question above is a firm “no.” Clean energy jobs are the same jobs we’ve been working at for decades, just with new titles and twists. The workplace hazards are often the same. Here are just a few examples:

  • Indiana renewable energy jobs involving wind turbines employ more than three out of five workers. Wind energy workers are covered by many of the same OSHA standards as those who work in similar jobs, and employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from hazards. Some of the injuries and deaths that have occurred on wind turbine jobs include falls, severe electrical burns, arc flashes (a type of electrical discharge or explosion), arc fires, and crushing injuries.
  • Indiana’s 3,641 solar workers can experience many types of hazards while on the job. OSHA lists falls, lockout/tagout mishaps, electrical accidents of all types, and problems with cranes and hoists as being responsible for worker injuries and deaths.
  • Advanced transportation, the No. 2 clean jobs employment sector in Indiana, with 14,464 workers, can involve working with hydrogen fuel cells. Such employment can injure workers because of hydrogen fires and explosions. Hydrogen is colorless and odorless but highly flammable. Fuel cell workers can also suffer from freeze burns, which happen when liquid hydrogen contacts the skin, and electrical hazards such as arc flashes and electrocution.
  • Energy efficiency jobs have the potential to injure workers if employers are not vigilant. HVAC and lighting jobs of all types—green and non-green—are remarkably similar, so the same types of injuries occur. Workers can suffer from falls, burns, electrocution and electrical injuries, and even exposure to asbestos at some job sites.

While clean energy benefits the environment and green jobs put money in employees’ pockets, working at these jobs can be highly hazardous to your health and life.

When something goes wrong, we are left to wonder.

State and federal agencies, including OSHA, have strict guidelines and regulations to keep workers safe while they are doing their jobs. In some cases, employers might ignore these regulations or fail to ensure they are properly followed. Where machines or equipment are involved, there can be questions of manufacturer’s defects, or there can be another third-party situation that requires legal remedy.

Let McNeely Stephenson, with over 30 years’ experience handling on-the-job injury claims in Indiana, put their resources to work for you. You might be eligible for certain types of compensation beyond workers’ comp to assist you with your financial hardship. To explore your options, call Mike Stephenson or Brady Rife today, or use our online contact form.