Pen and paperBy Richard Negri

When we conducted our first (as Labor Side Communications) Safety and Health Primer class last week in Orange County (hosted at UFCW Local 324), our intention was to share information about occupational safety and health with the motivation of empowering folks to apply the material to their specific situations. 

We gave a broad overview of various hazards, conducted an interesting hazard assessment breakout, and spent a good amount of time discussing workplace violence, of which every one of the 40+ participants in the class had either witnessed or experienced first-hand on the job. We then discussed Cal/OSHA: what it is, what it does, how to use it.

The three-hour class felt like it went by in thirty minutes and people lingered afterwards to ask specific questions pertaining to their worksites. But it wasn’t just the materials that were reviewed that were so important; it was the conversation surrounding the material.

Getting the Conversation Going

What I find fascinating about meeting with a group this large from different trades and sectors is the intense interest in not only learning basics pertaining to safety and health, but also the desire to share their personal experiences. I could be wrong here, but I think it is because workers rarely (or ever) are asked to talk about their safety, health, and wellness on the job!

Moving the conversation around safety and health forward, whether through formulated training modules, surveys, or any other means, must be the first step to addressing the issues when a union is motivated to do so. And to get the conversation moving, it is important to realize that there is no specific point-of-entry to the discussion, there is no hidden agenda, or magic formula. Getting the conversation going is simply listening and getting information from the workers. What might be playing in the background for some organizers and reps when they look at the whole safety and health piece of a worker’s time at work is that they see it as too complicated, too scientific, and too cumbersome to try to address. These very real reactions can be addressed in any number of trainings.

Because most local unions have limited resources, there isn’t always an assigned safety and health professional on staff, so these critical conversations fall to the wayside. You probably know where this is going: We can help you get the conversation moving. We can help set up a plan to take on issues and approach them head on. We believe that this effort will not only strengthen existing membership, but will also attract not-yet-members.

Click here to read more about the safety and health trainings that Labor Side Communications offers.