April 2015 Safety Matters:
The IUE-CWA Health and Safety Program’s primary function is to assist the union’s membership through their local unions by protecting their health and safety and sustaining community environmental health in the communities in which our members work and live. We believe that all workers have a fundamental right to a healthy and safe workplace; we remain committed to advancing health and safety within our workplaces through our programs, services, and actions. These activities are achieved through the development and use of a coordinated approach within our union involving headquarters personnel as well as national, regional, local officers and leaders, along with safety and health activists. The IUE-CWA Occupational Health and Safety Coordinator in cooperation with the CWA Administrator, is an available resource with creditable and applicable tools working to improve workplace health and safety programs; assisting with and conducting trainings for local union committee officers and staff representatives; assisting local unions in electing party status; working for better regulations and standards; helping to negotiate solid health and safety language in IUE-CWA contracts; and generating a spirit of divisional wide safety activism.
Partnering for a Collective Goal
We need coalitions not only to be stronger individually, but stronger together. In 2010, motivated by the elimination of and prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses, efforts of the IUE-CWA, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Steelworkers (USW), the Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC), and Labor Institute were combined and the goal was set targeting to raise the bar for Health & Safety activism by:
- Sharing H&S resources and expertise between the IUE-CWA, USW-TMC, CWA, and Labor Institute;
- Instructing rank & file members using the most up to date Health & Safety methodology;
- Strengthening existing links between local activists;
- Creating new links between H&S activists both within the IUE-CWA and across unions (CWA &USW);
Broader Partnerships–Bigger Goals–Better Data–Bolder Movements
Key Areas of Actions
A wide range of health and safety services and activities to educate awareness, assess risks, implement prevention programs, and improve health, safety and well-being are available to each local and represented business through the consortium including:
- Hazard awareness promotion of occupational and environmental health and safety,
- Culture Assessments,
- Hazard Assessment Workshops,
- Training Assessment, Design, Development and Delivery, and
- Process, Procedure and System Development,
- Assist local unions in working with regulatory agencies (OSHA/EPA/etc.),
- Track and pursue better regulations, laws and standards to protect workers,
- Respond to incidents involving fatalities, or serious injuries and help the local union find the root cause and prevent a similar incident,
- Provide system audits; with feedback to both the Local Union and local management,
- Help negotiate better health and safety language in local union contract,
- Provide Health and Safety communication to locals and their members
- Coordinate the IUE-CWA health and safety efforts with the AFL-CIO, CWA, other unions, and worker health & safety organizations.
Information and knowledge are powerful tools to support prevention initiatives. The consortium commitment to worker health and safety equips local union officers, union health and safety activists, workers, and their management counterparts by providing union based health, safety and environmental training. Much of the training is funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Local EHS Programs[DF1] There is nothing more important to IUE-CWA than the health, safety and well-being of our members, their families, and communities. Each IUE-CWA local is encouraged to establish at minimum a joint health and safety committee within each of their represented businesses. These committees should not perceive environmental, health, and safety as a regulatory burden. Instead the understanding should be the significant opportunities and benefits a solid safety system can include such as:
- Trained and educated members able to recognize hazards—
- lead to less injuries and illnesses
- Increased reporting and abatement of near misses
- lead to lowered chances of citations, fines, and regulatory visits
- Increased productivity – employees are healthier, happier and better motivated.
Joint health and safety committees focused continuously on improving safety through the positive engagement of workers observing and identifying hazardous conditions with each recognized hazard being addressed utilizing the hierarchy of controls is the first step ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for all.
Most if not all union members will be involved in an audit at some time within the workplace. Audits are no small matter; joint health and safety committees should plan, prepare, and ensure the rank and file are a part of the audit process. The joint health and safety committee also need to develop and implement quality control measures for the audit process. Such controls help to ensure that systematic audits are conducted on a regular basis. Developing an audit process ensures that a reliable methodology is applied for repeatability. The process should cover pre-audits, on-site and post audit actions. Recognizing an audit is a basis for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the safety program; the committee should consider the following in development:
- Identify process hazards and associated risk
- Evaluate quality control policies, procedures, and practices
- Evaluate roles and responsibilities for clarity and understanding
- Training and experience of employees, contractors, support personnel
- Protective or Safeguarding methods
- Recordkeeping process
- Internal Communication and verification processes
Not all workplaces may use a formal auditing process, but it is essential to provide a method that allows workplaces to perform self-assessments to some company standard. Self-assessments to ensure that the processes required to meet identified management system components have been developed and implemented; employees (both union and salary) are aware of management system requirements and their roles; processes are complied with and are effective; and the local facility is learning and improving. Hiring a third party consultant to assist you with auditing is one option; an expensive option. To support our local joint health and safety committees IUE-CWA provides audit related tools and services free of charge.