Decarbonisation and the circular economy

Source: Deemerwha studio –

How does the expansion of renewable energy and the circular economy affect health and safety at work and in educational institutions?

Expansion of renewable energies

The decarbonisation that is urgently needed worldwide to limit climate change is accompanied by massive transformation processes that also affect the health and safety of many people. The current focus is on the energy, heating and transport transition. Transmission grids, distribution, district heating and gas grids as well as the charging station infrastructure need to be expanded or adapted accordingly. Among other things, many plants have reached the end of their service life. Wind energy, photovoltaic and solar thermal systems as well as heat pumps are being installed, maintained or replaced. In addition, the use of (green) hydrogen and electromobility is to be increased.

Shift in activities and risks

Innovations are driving decarbonisation and can lead to completely new professions, activities and tasks for affected employees, the risks and hazards of which must be anticipated, researched and assessed. Known risks and hazards are also shifting to other sectors as a result of the green transformation, making the transfer of knowledge regarding safe and healthy work between the affected sectors all the more important. The time pressure and the existing shortage of skilled labour in many of the sectors affected harbour the risk of work intensification, excessive demands and even resignation. However, knowledge is already available in many areas that can also be utilised for new professions.

Utilising opportunities and shaping occupational safety

In the dynamic and innovation-driven field of decarbonisation, targeted co-operation and partnerships with experts from industry and science are needed to advance technologies for decarbonisation in order to establish occupational safety and health as soon as new technologies and industries emerge.

In addition, successful decarbonisation requires material resources, especially lithium. In order to secure the supply of these scarce resources and act in a globally responsible manner, a European recycling infrastructure for electric batteries and electronic waste, as well as for wind turbine rotor blades, needs to be established. This would also create a new future-oriented industry in Germany, the risks and hazards of which must also be anticipated, researched and assessed and which offers occupational health and safety the opportunity to help shape its development from the outset.