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  • Unions
    Updated On: Jun 20, 2018

    Why Bargain for Health and Safety?
    Collective bargaining for workplace safety is important because:

    • The union can negotiate contract language that is stronger than OSHA regulations.
    • Contracts can enable the union to grieve health and safety issues, instead of relying on government enforcement.
    • Contracts can protect workers against retaliation for complaining about safety conditions or refusing to work in unsafe conditions.
    • Contracts spell out job-specific requirements, such as limits on lifting.

    For sample contract language on health and safety, order a copy of the Labor Occupational Health Program’s Collective Bargaining for Health and Safety.

    Unions make work safer

    Economic policies can have unintended consequences on population health. In recent years, many states in the USA have passed ’right to work’ (RT W) laws which weaken labour unions. The effect of
    these laws on occupational health remains unexplored. This study by Michael Zoorob of the Department of Government at Harvard University published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in June of 2018 fills this gap by analysing the effect of RT W on occupational fatalities through its effect on unionisation: Does ‘right to work’ imperil the right to health? The effect of labour unions on workplace fatalities.

    Unions and OSHA
    Unions play a vital role when it is necessary to file an OSHA complaint about workplace safety hazards.

    When OSHA comes to inspect a workplace, a union representative has the right to accompany the inspector. The union can point out hazards OSHA might not notice otherwise. Throughout the whole process the union can be involved in all conferences, and meetings.

    After the inspection, the union has a right to see the results from all tests or monitoring done as part of the inspection. The union also has the right to be informed about all citations and fines that OSHA issues. If your employer is cited, the union can challenge the time period set by OSHA for correcting the problem. Source: National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Used with permission.

    Should Your Union File an OSHA Complaint?

    • An OSHA complaint can help resolve health and safety complaints.
    • A victory on a health and safety issue can bring credibility to your union.


    • When you file an OSHA complaint, the resolution of the issue may be taken out of your hands.
    • There may be long delays when you involve OSHA, which has insufficient funds and personnel.
    • OSHA standards may be too weak, or may not cover your issue.

    Unions and Safety Committees
    In New Hampshire, all workplaces of five or more employees must have joint loss management committees. In a union workplace, the union can appoint up to 50% of the committee members. The chair of the committee alternates between union and management. Because of this, joint loss management committees can be a powerful tool for unions to maximize workplace safety. See NH COSH’s Guide For Union Members: New Hampshire Joint Loss Management Committees or NH Department of Labor.

    For more information on Unions in New Hampshire visit NH AFL-CIO.

  • New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health

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