I have three important topics to share in this issue’s column. The first is a refresher on the role of the UWUA National Safety Committee, the second is the role of safety stand-downs, and finally, a note of congratulations to Local 1-2 members at the New York Power Authority.
The UWUA established the Safety Committee in 2018 when it saw a need for a system of robust information sharing that could tap the expertise of our own membership. The committee reflects our union’s membership in terms of both our sectors and our diverse membership. There are three subcommittees covering gas, water and electric that include members working in all represented positions, such as field, plants, offices, and call centers.
We have established goals, objectives, a mission statement, and expectations of committee members. Each month, we hold a Zoom meeting where committee members from coast to coast have a platform to share information. During the height of the pandemic, we shared information from the CDC, U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, and other federal and state agencies on regulations and advisory plans.
We are currently working on a plan to introduce regional safety summits that will offer a variety of training for locals on topics such as:
- Union representative’s role and responsibilities in an OSHA investigation;
- Do’s and don’ts of a local safety committee;
- Overview of the systems of safety training;
- Overview of the P4A.
Please visit the UWUA’s website where you will find the names and contact information for your regional safety committee members. We encourage you to reach out with any questions or information you may want to share regarding safety at your location.
A safety stand-down is a voluntary event organized by employers to promote awareness and emphasize the importance of workplace safety. During a safety stand-down, work activities are paused, and employees are encouraged to participate in safety training, discussions, or other educational activities related to workplace hazards, best practices, and accident prevention.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a regulatory agency in the United States that sets and enforces standards to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees. OSHA promotes safety stand-downs as part of its efforts to raise awareness about workplace hazards and the implementation of effective safety measures.
It is common for unions and worker organizations to encourage employers to participate in safety stand-downs to prioritize worker safety and prevent accidents or injuries. These initiatives often aim to foster a culture of safety, educate employees about potential risks, and provide training to enhance their knowledge of safety protocols.
Participating in safety stand-downs can have several benefits for employers and UWUA members including:
- Raising awareness: Safety stand-downs help to create awareness about workplace hazards and the importance of implementing safety measures to prevent accidents and injuries.
- Education and training: Employers can use safety stand-downs as an opportunity to provide training to UWUA members, ensuring they understand safety protocols, procedures, and how to use protective equipment correctly.
- Communication and engagement: Safety stand-downs allow employers to engage with UWUA members, encourage dialogue about safety concerns, and provide a platform for workers to share their experiences and suggestions.
- Hazard identification and mitigation: By pausing work activities and focusing on safety, employers can identify potential hazards, assess risks, and implement appropriate controls or corrective actions.
- Compliance with OSHA standards: Participating in safety stand-downs demonstrates an employer’s commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment, which can contribute to compliance with OSHA regulations.
To obtain the most up-to-date information on the UWUA’s recommendations regarding OSHA’s safety stand-downs, I recommend visiting our website (www.uwua.net) or reaching out to the safety committee members in your area directly.
Congratulations to Local 1-2’s New York Power Authority Workers
Finally, I’d like to recognize Local 1-2’s members at the New York Power Authority. Their exceptional safety record earned them a 2022 safety award from the American Public Power Association (APPA). Each year, the APPA recognizes public sector utilities with low incident rates and strong safety cultures. The New York Power Authority’s safety record stood out among other large public utilities (Group “G”— those with between 1 and 4 million worker hours of exposure) and earned it third place in its class. Congratulations and keep up the good work!