Clean energy safer for workers

Posted on August 20, 2009. Filed under: General |

From an article by Baldur Hedinsson in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

To keep the gears of America’s economy turning, energy workers need to drill deep into the Earth for explosive gas and flammable oil, a dangerous occupation.

New research finds that switching to a renewable energy system based on sun and wind would provide safer working conditions and prevent more than 130 job-related deaths in the United States each year by significantly reducing the need for mining. The study is published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the paper, Peter Layde, a professor in the department of population health and co-director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Steven Sumner of the Medical Center at Duke University, compare the occupational hazards energy workers are exposed to in fossil fuel with that of renewable energy production. Three renewable energy sources with potential for growth – solar, wind and biomass – were included in the study.

“Focusing on the entire lifecycle is important when estimating occupational hazard, including construction and maintenance of all infrastructure needed,” Layde said.

Wind and solar energy compared favorably with fossil fuels in every aspect from production to distribution, but the researchers note that better data is needed to make more precise comparisons. Renewables are safer than fossil fuels because mining isn’t involved. Mining is the second-most dangerous industry in the U.S., resulting in 27.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared with an average of 3.4 deaths for all industries.

The most common biomass fuel, ethanol, did not compare as favorably.

The complete study can be found on the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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