For the first time ever, our union held a joint health and safety conference with IP this past fall. Members had a chance to discuss the hazards in their workplace and develop strategies to address the problems.
The conference, held in Birmingham, Ala., had a union-only session on Sept. 16 and a joint labor/management session on Sept. 17. Attending the conference were 76 USW local union officers and health and safety representatives from IP’s 14 mills, other affiliate local unions from those locations, two managers from each mill and corporate staff.
“This joint health and safety conference was a result of the solidarity and dedication of our local leaders and members who were determined to have a collective voice in cooperation with the company concerning health and safety issues through the master agreement,” District 9 Director Stan Johnson said.
During the union-only session, members discussed what was happening at their workplace to cause injuries.
“Overall, to bring about safer and healthier workplaces, all of our local unions wanted to see much more focus on identifying and addressing the hazards that are causing injuries and illnesses to our members,” Nancy Lessin from the USW’s Tony Mazzocchi Center said.
She said some of the concerns brought up were long hours causing fatigue on the job, the push for production and the lack of adequate training.
Strategies were discussed to get these and other hazards addressed, such as establishing or strengthening union and joint labor-management health and safety committees, learning how to prioritize safety issues and finding effective ways to bring safety issues to the attention of management and get them addressed.
Other items on the union-only agenda were discussions on the strengths and limitations of current health and safety committee structures, health and safety victories,
Long-standing and unresolved health and safety issues, worksite health and safety programs and plans for the future.
Brent Moore, a Local 1458 full-time maintenance safety coordinator at the Prattville, Ala., mill found the conference to be a valuable forum to hear about the issues at other IP facilities, especially the most common one—the difficulty with getting safety hazards fixed due to a lack of resources. He also found it valuable to hear the USW’s concerns about behavior-based safety programs and the union’s focus on hazard
During the joint session, labor and management from each mill discussed what is problematic, what is happening that is good and what they would like to start at their facility in terms of health and safety.
In 18 months, there will be another joint meeting and each location will report back on the progress made in the categories labor and management identified.
USW Health, Safety and Environment Specialist Steve Sallman ran a slideshow during the joint session that showed fatalities and serious injuries the HSE Department had investigated, their causes and what needed to be different. He identified a Telemotive Series 8000 remote control crane box that malfunctioned and caused a fatality at a steel mill in August 2004. He said that when he visited an IP mill, he saw the same faulty crane box in use with an overhead crane.
After seeing that presentation, IP management sent a message to all the mill managers asking them to see if that particular box was in use and if so, to follow the recommended actions in a USW safety alert. The company also took the Steelworker fact sheet developed by the HSE Department and published it in the company newsletter that went out to all the facilities.
Participants and those planning the conference found it to be a success. “The joint conference was a tremendous success in that it provided an all-inclusive joint forum for a free flow of information and ideas from all participants that will surely improve the safety and health environments at every mill,” Johnson said.