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OSH Staff Provides Diverse Field Support
Sometimes a phone call is enough to address a problem in the field, but often, it’s better to go out, look and discuss the situation directly. When that’s the case, for participating LIUNA signatory employers and local unions, the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division staff is here to help.
In June, the LHSFNA’s Associate Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Walter Jones, made a site visit to a natural gas project in Pennsylvania. The pipeline contractor on the job and Laborers’ Local Union 158 requested the visit. The purpose was to review the owner’s recent decision to require all workers to wear flame-retardant suits despite an intense summer heat wave.
Although no connection was acknowledged, Jones learned upon arrival that the owner had reversed its decision in the period after it became aware of his upcoming visit. With no controversy to investigate, Jones toured the site and then met with the contract’s safety and health consultant and the Laborers’ shop steward. All three were pleased with the owner’s sudden policy change, but they nevertheless agreed that workers on well pads and live lines should wear the suits, even during hot, summer months. For workers in other capacities, wearing the suits is an unnecessary exposure to heat-related illness. They also agreed that any workers wearing the suits would require additional rest and water breaks, another reason to avoid unnecessary use as that would reduce overall productivity.
On a recent trip to Illinois, Senior Safety & Health Specialist Travis Parsons made two stops at nuclear facilities where plant maintenance is handled by LIUNA members and a LIUNA signatory contractor. The two sites employ Laborers from LIUNA locals 309, 727, 32, 393, 75 and 703.
“The visits were proactive,” says Parsons. “It was all about ‘how can we get better.’” The company has a strong safety program but had noticed a recent uptick in injuries. “The local union and the employer thought that bringing in a national safety rep would break the routine and provoke a useful discussion about safety. Angie King arranged the meetings.” King is Director of the Midwest Region Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund.
As is typical of LHSFNA onsite consultations, Parsons met with company and union officials at both facilities. At one site, accompanied by King and the site manager, Parsons also met with female workers of each shift, due to the elevated number of injuries to women. Subsequently, he summarized his observations in a site visit report to both the union and company.
“I was very impressed with the overall attitude toward the importance of safety and health on the jobsite and the programs they have in place,” he wrote, noting the safety briefings before each shift, proper use of PPE, excellent signage, the lack of observed OSHA violations and other strong indicators. He called attention to one potential slip-trip-fall hazard that should be corrected and urged the formation of a joint (labor-management) Safety and Health Committee (JSHC). The discussions among the women workers revealed that they felt the work environment was safe.
While in northern California in May, Jones conducted site visits for four companies in three cities.
At a signatory contractor site in Castroville, accompanied by union and company officials as well as Pacific Southwest Tri-Fund Field Coordinator Walter Robinson, Jones checked on the progress in addressing concerns previously identified in a 2009 site visit. All had been resolved, but a new concern – the maintenance of eye wash stations in the facility – had become apparent. The company’s district manager explained that it is in the process of updating these stations after it was determined that the old stations are incompatible with the dusty environment of the plant.
In Fresno, Jones was joined by Bryan Matthews, Pacific Southwest LECET, when he checked in with the owners of a newly signed contractor. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the LIUNA Tri-Funds services that the company can now access. In his talks with the owners, Jones and the owners established a calendar for regular tool box talks and worksite inspections, how to conduct accident investigations and complete the OSHA 300 log and made a plan for Jones’ review of the company’s Injury and Illness Prevention Plan. “It was a very practical meeting,” Jones reports. “We were able not only to explain the services of the Fund but provide them.”
Along with Matthews, Jones also met in Fresno with another signatory employer, again to explain Tri-Fund services. “Talking with the owner was very interesting,” says Jones. “He talked about his history in construction and how, for a long time, he was virulently and proudly anti-union. Since he’s signed, he says the general contractors are much better and the projects are safer. After years of not being able to bid bigger jobs because of poor credit, he is now able to scale up because the union has helped him secure financing.” At the owner’s request, Jones is reviewing his safety and health program to ensure compliance with Cal/OSHA.
Jones’ last stop, again accompanied by Robinson, was in San Jose at a concrete breaking and cutting operation. Jones had been working on the phone with the company in the weeks prior to the visit after he was asked to help develop an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Subsequently, the company had received a Cal/OSHA citation. Jones helped it address the citation while also establishing a new way to ensure the company’s timely compliance, given the short-term nature of its work, with the state’s hazard assessment/inspection requirement. With Jones’ help, the company redesigned its Job Work Orders to include pre-job hazard assessments. As these forms are submitted early to ensure worker payroll, the redesigned work orders move the hazard assessment to an earlier stage in the production process.
Site Visit Services
“Almost any site and company can benefit from a second opinion about its safety program and practices,” says Sabitoni. “The LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division can provide that fresh perspective. All that is needed is a joint request from management and the local union.”
Contact the Division at 202-628-5465. For more information about site visit services and to share information with others, order copies of Can Your Site Use a Second Opinion? from the LHSFNA’s online Publications Catalogue.