A worker is generally understood as someone who is employed under the terms of a formal or informal contract. However, the term will be used here in a narrower sense, to refer to someone involved in the industrial production of goods and/or the provision of services.
The period known as the Industrial Revolution, from around 1760 to 1840, saw the transition from hand-based to machine-based production. The introduction of new manufacturing processes had profound social impacts: people who were no longer able to make a living from the land poured into the cities to seek employment in the newly built factories. The increased use of steam power, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the improved efficiency of water power and the development of machine tools also led to a dramatic shift away from wood and other bio-fuels towards coal.
The intensive and widespread use of machinery led to an explosion in the availability of fabrics, vehicles and labour-saving devices. Living standards for the newly created middle class and the well-off factory owners rose to unprecedented heights, while the working poor lived in squalid conditions in the burgeoning urban slums. With advances in technology, workers now enjoy better conditions than a century ago, although industrial pollution and worker safety remain a significant concern.
Industrial workers today typically belong to teams that include specialists at different levels: managers, engineers, labourers, machine operators, researchers and support staff. Ideally, each team should have the capacity to make complex decisions and undertake measures in relation to environmental protection and human health.
Every type of manufacturing industry consumes energy and raw materials, and the environmental impacts of industrial activities are greater if the materials used are non-renewable. Different industrial activities affect the environment in different ways, as described below.
Environmental hazards include:
The production of non-ferrous metals:
The process units in refining plants:
Leather tanning techniques:
The production of foods and beverages:
Each team working in an industrial plant can play a proactive role in its development by:
Concrete environmental protection measures might include: