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UAW plans safety offensive

"We must turn from defense to offense by emphasizing the gravity and frequency of workplace illness and injury," states the United Auto Workers in a recent position statement.

In the UAW's eyes, "OSHA is dominated by management. Their rhetoric is to substitute inspections and orders to abate hazards with vague promises of 'partnerships'."

The union's plans include energizing in-plant representatives and forming alliances with allies in the public health community, consumer groups, local community occupational safety and health groups, injured workers groups and environmental groups.

Objectives include:

  • Push OSHA to implement the recommendations of the OSHA Metalworking Fluids Standard Advisory Committee.
  • Advocate legislation to revive the ergonomics process. "Congress must tell the administration to move forward, because the enemies of ergonomics protection control OSHA," according to the UAW.
  • The failure to compensate victims of occupational disease from chemical exposure needs special attention.
  • The "national epidemic" of repetitive trauma disorders and the need for accommodation to permit disabled workers to return to work should get special emphasis when addressing workers' compensation.
  • Oppose any product liability legislation that would eliminate or cut back on consumers', users' or workers' rights to recover damages.
  • Press for federal legislation to provide uniform national standards for compensation of occupational disease.
  • Workers' compensation legislation should also include increased incentives for safety - such as increased benefits where safety violations contributed to an injury as well as increased penalties/fines.
  • Use state workers' compensation legislation as a vehicle for OSHA improvements. "Whenever workers' compensation is put in play, state organizations should consider adding provisions requiring employers to implement safety and health representation for employees and comprehensive safety and health management programs. Such legislation would pressure Congress and OSHA to do the same," says the UAW.

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