On October 22, 2009 I attended the IBEW Safety Caucus in Orlando, Florida. There were over 100 locals at this Caucus.
I also attended the National Safety Council Labor Division Meeting following the IBEW Safety Caucus.
Jim Tomaseski, who is the IBEW Safety & Health Director, gave the International Report. Most of the report focused on the current economical situation and its effects on locals across the United States and Canada. One of the topics brought up was how we as Union Members can help to improve Safety, which helps our employers' lower Workers Comp. costs. The average cost right now on a Workers Comp. claim is well over $12,000.00. This, of course, hurts our employers' profitability, which hurts all of us when it comes to negotiating for better wages and benefits.
Several Labor Liaisons from OSHA were present, and spoke about the lack of OSHA reps in the field. Most of these vacancies are due to retirements, and under the Bush administration they were kept vacant. Under the Obama administration, they will start with the hiring of approx. 100-150 reps immediately. There is a good chance that with the funding, this could go as high 1,000 over the next couple of years. It appears with the new administration that OSHA is now refocusing on compliance with the laws. They are handing out more fines for violations, instead of just warnings.
One of the most interesting topics was about RF exposure. There are a lot of concerns as to how much exposure to this radiation is too much. Right now, several studies are under way to try and put more OSHA laws in to the workplace to protect workers. You can read more about this at the following link:
If you're being exposed to Radio Frequency during your work assignments, please visit: http://www.rfcheck.com. There is an online survey that will help all of us to better understand the dangers associated with RF.
At the National Safety Council, I was able sit in with the Ergonomics Safety & Health Committee. The focus here was with OSHA becoming more "passionate" about Ergonomics. During the Bush administration, President Bush signed legislation to repeal federal regulations on work place ergonomics. This has prevented OSHA from having a strong, enforceable and comprehensive ergonomic standard for labor. The hope is that the new Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis will quickly focus on bringing out new ergonomic standards. It's been estimated that American companies could save $20 billion each year in workers' compensation if we were able to eliminate repetitive stress injuries.
On Saturday I went to a training session on "Communicating Safety" and also sat in with the Transportation Safety & Health Committee. It was a great opportunity to hear about the safety concerns with the airlines, railroad, trucking, etc.
Overall, it was a great experience and I learned a lot. Hopefully as the economy recovers, more Unions will get behind the National Safety Council and to help each and everyone of us to make our work environments safer.
John Glye Jr.