The “Occupational Health” (OH), frequently referred as “Occupational Health and Safety” (OHS) – a concept established in 1950 by the Joint of International Labour Organization (ILO) /World Health Organization (WHO) Committee on Occupational Health – has a strong focus on primary prevention of occupational risks and deals with all aspects of health and safety in the workplace. The OH aims at fostering the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in all professions, the prevention of illness linked to work, but also workers’ health protection against occupational risks and ensuring the existence and maintenance of an occupational environment adapted to the physiological and psychological capabilities of each worker.

In spite of the huge transformation and development of the work in the recent decades, many workers are still exposed to unacceptable occupational risks, being victims of occupational diseases and serious accidents at work, which show the need, importance, and urgency of effective implementation and strengthening of OHS services. It is considered that these services must cover all workers, regardless of the economy sector, the size of the enterprise, the profession, or situation at employment. However, it is not yet clear “if green jobs are safe for workers” and if they “support the disadvantaged”. The transition toward a greener economy poses new challenges for OHS but besides traditional work-related risks, green workers could potentially be exposed to emerging risks related to the introduction of new technologies, substances, processes, and workforce changes.

In addition, the rapid expansion of green economy could pose further training requirements, leaving some unskilled workers involved in procedures for which they have not been adequately trained. Stressing that the constant pressure associated with environmental, economic, and political factors, have led sometimes to the neglecting of OHS issues in green jobs, tacking to a clear conflict among environmental objectives of green jobs and the OHS goals, that could put at stake the health and well-being of the involved workers as well as the sustainable development.

Thus, although the green jobs can foster dynamism and creation of employment, and so they represent an engine of development of the countries, it is considered that these jobs will not be able to meet only the “purposes of their use”, considering key that besides environmental concerns these green jobs should be decent jobs, meaning that they are quality jobs, offer adequate wages and OHS conditions, which meet the worker’s objectives, that allow stability at work, career perspectives, and ensure workers’ rights, social dialog, and social protection. Therefore, assuming that the green jobs should be as good for the environment as for worker’s health and must ensure the principles of decent work, in particular to be safe and healthy.


(Source: Sustainability of green jobs in Portugal: a methodological approach using occupational health indicators

Sandra Moreira, Lia Vasconcelos and Carlos Silva Santos)


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