BARGAINING FOR STOP WORK AUTHORITY TO PREVENT INJURY AND SAVE LIVES

This publication focuses on bargaining for effective Stop Work Authority (SWA) processes. The content is appropriate for many industries and sectors of the USW. However, special considerations apply to mining, heath care and a few other sectors that may not be covered in this document.

For specific questions about Stop Work Authority in these sectors, contact the USW HSE Department.

This publication complements the USW’s Looking for Trouble – A Comprehensive Union-Management Safety and Health System. We call that process “looking for trouble” – identifying and preventing trouble that can get workers injured, sickened, or killed. Trouble comes in many forms, from machinery that can crush an arm, to dusts that can ignite, to awkward repetitive tasks that can cripple over time, to chemicals that can cause poisoning today or death from cancer 20 years later. Looking for such trouble, and eliminating it, is the goal of this system.

For information on the right to refuse unsafe work and addressing management retaliation for health and safety activity, see Stand Up Without Fear: Understanding the OSH Act’s Retaliation Provisions by the OSH Law Project (2020).

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A TRADE UNION PERSPECTIVE ON "THE NEW VIEW" OF HEALTH AND SAFETY

The New View of Health and Safety focuses in part on identifying and controlling hazards, providing a means for systems to fail safely (resilience engineering), and involving workers and their representatives in the process.

Workers and Unions have strived to achieve these same goals for years, but have not yet been able to achieve the same traction with employers that the New View of Health and Safety practitioners have accomplished. 

Many elements of the New View of Health and Safety are consistent with what they have long promoted, and as such are extremely compatible with their view of the Trade Union approach to health and safety.

This paper examines three elements of the New View of Health and Safety and compares them to the Trade Union approach to health and safety. 

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A RISK TOO GREAT, HYDROFLUORIC ACID IN U.S. REFINERIES

The USW released this study, A Risk Too Great, Hydrofluoric Acid in U.S. Refineries to warn the public that refiners that use hydrofluoric acid (HF) in their alkylation process to make clean-burning gasoline do not have adequate safety systems in place and are not prepared to handle a release.

HF is highly toxic and at high enough exposures it can kill a person. If released into the atmosphere, it rapidly forms a dense vapor cloud that hovers near land and can travel long distances. A release from U.S. refineries Can range from three to 25 miles, depending on the amount stored at the facility.

More than 26 million Americans live within this range, many in urban areas such as Philadelphia, Memphis, Salt Lake City and Houston that are impossible to evacuate quickly. No other chemical process puts as many people at risk.

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BEYOND TEXAS CITY: THE STATE OF PROCESS SAFETY IN THE UNIONIZED U.S. OIL REFINING INDUSTRY

On March 23, 2005, a fiery blast at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas killed 15 workers, injured 180 others and caused major alarm in the community. According to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), the incident led to financial losses exceeding $1.5 billion.”

In January 2006, nine months following the Texas City disaster, the Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education (TMC) sent a 64-item, mailback survey to local unions at each of 71 United Steelworkers (USW)-represented refineries.

The survey sought to determine the extent to which conditions similar to those that led to the BP Texas City catastrophe exist at the nation’s other refineries and what is being done to correct those conditions. This publication is a report of those surveys.

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PAPERED OVER - SAFETY AND HEALTH IN U.S. PAPER MILLS

To address the serious safety and health problems in paper, the USW created the Paper Research Action Project to survey conditions in USW-represented paper mills. Based on preliminary discussions with union leaders and local unions, and their own collective experience, the Team decided to focus on seven key areas: union involvement in safety and health; work design; process safety and emergency response; combustible and toxic dusts; machine guarding and lockout/tagout; counterproductive behavioral safety programs; and safety and health training.

This publication details the results of that survey – along with recommendations for action – in each of the seven key areas. The findings show an industry that tolerates serious risks to its workers, where the limited safety and health programs that do exist are based on a flawed view of what causes accidents, and are often counterproductive of safety. But these problems can all be corrected. All it will take is commitment and hard work by management, the union and paperworkers themselves. 

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SECURING OUR CHILDREN'S WORLD: OUR UNION AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Securing Our Children’s World, Our Union and the Environment is an updated report that builds upon the landmark work of the original report, Our Children’s World, which was adopted at the 25th Constitutional Convention of the USW in Toronto, Ontario on Aug. 30, 1990.

The report examines each of the areas originally noted in the 1990 report and touch on both the progress made and the threats that are still outstanding. In the concluding section we outline an action plan for our union’s broad engagement with the global environmental movement.

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Click here for the original publication published in August 1990.