By Ralph Ortiz, Teamsters SFO Safety Committee Chairman
From April 18th to 22nd, United Airlines Teamsters from the Teamsters SFO Ground Safety Committee attended the National Safety Council Labor Division spring meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Labor Division is one of nine divisions of the National Safety Council and “is a place where representatives of the various branches of labor can get together solely to discuss and share information concerning the safety and health of those we represent.”
The Labor Division meets twice a year (spring and fall) and is designed to meet the specific needs of union-based membership who are concerned with safety, health and environmental issues affecting the labor force.
There are 18 committees inside the Labor Division in which members can participate and provides benefits such as networking opportunities, sharing of safety information and concerns and trends in health and safety not only in the workplace but also the community people live in.
The opening session was on Sunday April 19th and included a presentation on why zero injuries is not a goal to strive for — the goal really should be to identify hazards and eliminate or reduce the risk for injuries from those hazards.
A presentation on the NSC Survivor Advocacy Program was also given. The program is setup to assist the survivors from vehicle accidents, drug overdoses and the relatives/spouses of workers who have died in the workplace.
After the opening sessions, Union Caucuses were held. Teamsters Local 1150 members working for Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut, Local 2727 UPS aircraft mechanics from Louisville, Kentucky, and Local 781 United Airlines members from Chicago discussed and shared information on the safety issues and challenges each of us is dealing with at the companies where Teamsters work.
Later in the day we attended various committee meetings including: Ergonomics, Occupational & Environmental Health & Safety, Government/Labor Agency Standards, Community Service/Public Safety & Health, Promotion of Training & Education in Safety & Health and others. The next day more committee meetings were held, including the Transportation Safety & Health Committee. This committee is currently made up primarily of Union representatives from the Airline Industry.
The Union safety representatives at the Transportation committee meeting realized we all are facing and dealing with many of the same safety and health issues and concerns at the various Air Carriers, including the struggles with Management to get them to address and fix safety issues and concerns.
The next day was filled with training sessions. These included: Ergonomics, Emergency First Aid on the Job Site, Heat Stress, Cold Stress, Workplace violence, OSHA Current Trends, History of Workers Memorial Day and more.
A representative from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) gave a presentation on the hazards to workers from Nano Technology. There are thousands of products sold and available which have Nano particles in them and because the technology is proprietary and often covered by trade secrets, companies are not required to list the information on Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Workers have no way of knowing if Nano particles are in the product or chemical they were using.
The Fed OSHA Labor Liaisons from all the all 10 regions gave provided an update on current actions by OSHA in each region and also presented a session on the new updated Fed OSHA injury record keeping rule.
During the awards lunch, the Secretary/Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO gave a passionate and rousing speech on the condition of workers Health & Safety in North Carolina. It was reported that the North Carolina Labor Commissioner, who was elected in 2001 is anti-worker and pro-business. An investigation by a local news agency revealed that North Carolina has routinely under reported worker/workplace facilities to the US Department of Labor. The reason cited by the Labor Commissioner is that they only report deaths the state has a responsibly to investigate. North Carolina didn’t report 80 fatalities last year to the US Department of Labor, included self-employed workers, laborers at farms, owners of unincorporated companies and those that died in the open waters surrounding North Carolina.
It was also reported that North Carolina Labor Commissioner routinely reduces fines levied against employers who donated to her political campaign.
The Labor Division meeting concluded with the closing session where each committee liaison reported back to the attendees on the activities and discussions that took place at the meeting and training sessions.