Collecting our top 10 Lifelines articles over the past year provides an opportunity to put the year into perspective and take a snapshot of how safety and health fit into the daily lives of LIUNA members and signatory contractors.
If 2020 was the year of normal life grinding to a halt due to the pandemic, 2021 was the year of finding a path back to many of the Fund’s core areas of focus despite COVID-19 still being a reality. Issues such as work zone intrusions, opioid overdoses and changing expectations around workplace drug testing are just as important as they’ve ever been for LIUNA members and affiliates across the U.S. and Canada.
With that in mind, here are the Fund’s top 10 articles over the past year:
Work zone intrusions continue to be one of the most common ways that LIUNA members are killed on the job. Yet the way these incidents are collected and reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics gives an incomplete picture of the true toll on workers. Fixing this problem would help federal and state agencies make policy decisions and allocate resources that better protect the lives of LIUNA members and other workers.
In the years following the 9/11 attacks, thousands of first responders, cleanup workers and survivors found themselves fighting long-term diseases and fighting for medical care and compensation they desperately needed. With funding finally secured, the focus has shifted to improving long-term care for those affected and furthering research into emerging conditions.
LIUNA affiliates in New York State and Illinois recognized the role they could play in connecting LIUNA members with health care facilities that had a ready supply of COVID-19 vaccines. By partnering with providers, affiliates were able to bring vaccine clinics to LIUNA Local Unions and help thousands of workers and their family members get vaccinated.
Over 75 percent of Americans now live in a state where marijuana is legal in some form. That has led many contractors to take another look at pre-employment drug-testing policies. The ongoing opioid epidemic and its prevalence among construction workers is another reason for employers to consider changes to zero tolerance policies, which create a disincentive for workers to come forward if they are struggling with a substance abuse issue.
Many of the Ohio communities hit hardest by opioids and COVID-19 have also faced job loss, food insecurity and a lack of resources to address mental health issues. When several LIUNA affiliates joined together to organize a community outreach event to help address these issues, they received an overwhelming response that showed the need for similar events across the state.
During his time as Boston’s Mayor, Marty Walsh never stopped being a proud, card-carrying member of LIUNA Local 223. Walsh brought a strong track record of protecting workers’ health, safety and labor rights to that office, which led to him becoming the first union member to hold the position of Secretary of Labor in over 50 years.
The New York State Laborers’ Health & Safety Trust Fund and other LIUNA affiliates campaigned for and achieved a new photo enforcement program for highway work zones in New York State. The bipartisan legislation includes clear provisions related to speed, fine structure, worker presence and driver privacy that could provide a model for other states that don’t yet have similar laws.
Several programs that were started as a way to give workers the tools to recognize hazards on the job are becoming tools for career advancement. Programs like these are an opportunity for LIUNA members interested in safety and health and can open doors with construction contractors. Many employers are now sponsoring workers to go through these programs, including paying for program fees and renewal fees.
Throughout 2020, the LHSFNA monitored all aspects of the pandemic, but no area received more attention than COVID-19 vaccines. Before many employers put vaccine mandates in place, the focus was on how employers could overcome hesitancy on the part of workers, fight misinformation and support vaccination through scheduling flexibility and paid sick time.
With the demand for qualified, skilled construction workers on the rise, many organizations could benefit from increasing their efforts to hire and maintain a diverse workforce. Getting those workers to stick around requires creating a workplace culture where all workers feel like they’re treated fairly, where respect and opportunity are equally available and where discrimination and harassment are never tolerated.