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Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion DG

Employment and Social Legislation, Social Dialogue
Health, Safety and Hygiene at Work


Brussels, 11, 12 & 13 July 2012




Health and Safety in the New Green Economy: meeting the challenge of major change.


Failure to tackle health and safety issues could compromise efforts in the development of sustainable, secure and affordable energy supplies for the future, sustainable building and construction, and in the development of new businesses in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and waste management and recycling.


From a health and safety perspective, the scale and speed of the changes catalysed by the drive towards a new green economy will pose a significant challenge. As emerging technologies arrive in the marketplace, new players will join the renewable energy, architecture and construction, and other industries supporting the green economy and smaller businesses play a greater role in support of this emerging economy. Some new hazards may supplement the existing ones associated with renewable energy production, energy efficiency, sustainable buildings, and waste management and recycling. All of these have the potential to impede the anticipated transformation of the new green economy.


Sound health and safety management systems and credentials will be vital to the technologies’ ability to secure the public, worker, investor and wider industrial/commercial confidence crucial to their successful introduction and expansion. The need to protect workforces and the public at large, from the outset, from accidents and incidents that could undermine this confidence will be especially acute where potentially pivotal but essentially unfamiliar technologies are concerned.

The process of identifying hazards in the design (i.e., prevention through design) and developmental phases, and managing and controlling hazards should be part of the deployment of emerging energy and green technologies. In other words, organisations involved in the emerging green sector need to focus on ‘designing in’ safety, using a life cycle approach to sustainability, and addressing it as an integral part of the development and roll-out of a new technology. This is generally a much easier and less expensive option than ‘retrofitting’ safety (e.g., as a bolt-on measure at the operation or at the maintenance stage. ) In the final analysis, the earlier hazards and risks are addressed, the easier it will be to move positively towards a new energy future.


  1. Understanding hazards, recognising risks – identifying and assessing the key hazards and risks associated with a new green economy. Understanding of key risk factors throughout the lifecycle of industries and processes in the green economy and identifying relevant indicators including incidents and illness statistics, rapid growth of industries etc. 
  2. The legislative and regulatory framework – is the existing legislative and regulatory coverage sufficient to protect workers from these range of hazards and risks? Exploring potential regulatory gaps from new products and technologies and the potential use of these in unfamiliar environments. 
  3. Risk Management approaches – which potential risk management approaches could most successfully control the risks in the green economy? Consideration should be given to how prevention through design can play a role in the green economy and the mechanisms to share best practices.


How can a supportive regulatory framework for the emerging green economy promote sensible, proportionate management and control of hazards and risks? How can a supportive regulatory framework for the emerging green economy promote the integration of worker safety and health policies and practices into green and/or sustainable practices and policies?


A shared understanding of the best approaches for encouraging broad-based and diverse leadership of the health and safety challenge within the new green economy, making a contribution to the establishment of a secure, safe, low carbon energy future.