Occupational safety implications of the changing energy mix

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Renewable energy and natural gas are displacing coal and nuclear power in many parts of the world as sources of electricity. While, the environmental benefits of such changes seem clear, the impact on worker safety, especially in developed nations is less clear. Coal mining is a relatively dangerous occupation, though one that has grown significantly safer in recent decades. Manufacturing and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) power may pose less risk to workers on a per hour basis, but the number of worker hours necessary to generate a Megawatt-hour of electricity is currently higher for solar PV than it is for coal-generated power. The implications for the overall occupational burden of accidental deaths and injuries has not been previously detailed. This paper presents the results of a Monte Carlo sensitivity analysis for changes in total worker injuries and injury rates under different assumptions for the future energy mix in developed nations. Projections from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and other organizations together with documented productivity gains for the various energy industries provide test cases for this analysis. The analysis indicates that future occupational fatality and injury burden of the energy sector is highly dependent on improvements in safety in the expanding industries, while specific projections on the share of specific technologies is less critical. This result highlights the need to invest in occupational risk mitigation in these industries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDesign, Reliability, Safety, and Risk
PublisherAmerican Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
ISBN (Electronic)9780791852187
StatePublished - 2018
EventASME 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE 2018 - Pittsburgh, United States
Duration: Nov 9 2018Nov 15 2018

Publication series

NameASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Proceedings (IMECE)


OtherASME 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, IMECE 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanical Engineering


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