(Labor Notes) Safety: Bosses Want to Fix the Worker, Unions Want to Fix the Job

Unions and bosses have different outlooks on safety. Employers say illnesses and injuries are caused by worker carelessness: he didn’t wash his hands enough; she touched her face. That’s the way the boss wants you to think, too.

But the union realizes that it’s the hazards themselves that cause injuries, and that it’s the boss who sets up the workplace, either designing in hazards or failing to design them out. The boss has everyone work in the same tiny space. The boss won’t install a cough guard between you and customers. Emphasize these different outlooks with workers.

Bosses want to fix the worker. Their only way to reduce illnesses and injuries is to require gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE). They focus on getting workers to work safely by threatening discipline and punishment. Now there are shortages of PPE and they have no other ideas.

The union wants to fix the job itself. Identify and eliminate hazards. Reduce existing hazards with engineering controls like improving ventilation or safer procedures, and move people away from each other.

The boss wants workers to think about safety his way. But workers become passionate when they start thinking about safety like unions do. Injuries turn from “I did something stupid” to “The boss did this to me.” Now more than ever, safety is ripe for organizing.

Full article here.

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