National Worker Health & Safety Conference and Summit

Published in the The Nurse Alliance Roundup on Nov. 7, 2011

By Kathy Hughes, RN, CCRN, 121RN Labor Specialist, Nurse Alliance of California

OSHA Conference

SEIU Occupational Health and Safety Director, Bill Borwegen, invited us to be part of the summit. Though we had no idea what to expect, the agenda looked interesting and featured items we all need to know more about.

Soon after getting settled in it became apparent that it was going to be very difficult to pick only one break-out session at a time. Fortunate for us, there were three of us from California – so we divided and conquered them all!

The list below gives you a glimpse of what we had to choose from. If you had been with us, which break outs would have made your list?

OSHA’s General Duty Clause and How to Use It

Come to find out CA doesn’t have this clause, our state would use the Injury and Illness Prevention Program Regulation for California. They are designed to enforce safety concerns and complaints that don’t follow under other OSHA Regulations.

Getting Management to Fix What They Don’t Want Fixed

Jim Owen, RN, L121RN, a Pacu Nurse at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, came out from this breakout with an entire booklet of information. We plan on providing copies of this and any other learning materials that we gathered.

Legal Health and Safety Rights of Workers and Unions

Fighting the Fear Factor: Whistleblower Protection Campaign – In this class we learned that the law is vague so it’s difficult to get a clear ruling in the worker’s favor.

New legislation? A good plan

Workplace Violence-Impact and Prevention for Workers

New York State’s Public Employee Occupational Health and Safety Director, Jonathan Rosen, offered great news from New York and their work on workplace violence prevention.
California also made this session, but mainly about a work in progress. Our legislation have all become two year bills, meanwhile our healthcare staff are being murdered, raped and assaulted.

This is where the IIPP comes in handy for enforcing worker safety again violence

Strategies for Stopping “Blame-the-Worker” Safety Programs

Most OSHA complaints have the employer finding ways to blame the worker rather than identify a work hazard and fixing it. Great strategies offered to combat that epidemic and make the charges stick.
Working with the Media/Using Social Media with Journalists

Something we in California know a little about after working with Richard Negri from the New Media Dept of SEIU.

Safe Patient Handling Programs

The attendees learned about how to move to get SPH programs from employers by way legislation or collective bargaining agreements. We also discussed in great detail about creating employee buy-in and a culture of safety — we bounced around ideas on what a program like this should look like.

Innovative Strategies for Advancing Worker Safety on the State and Local Level

At this workshop there were a number of specifics that I highlighted with the mindset that each of them could be a full on-going discussion in and of themselves:

* Workers Education and Training Programs – Including Young Workers
* The Proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Programs Standard – Including Under-reporting Issues.
We see the Proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard as a decent policy that hasn’t had the best implementation. There is work being done on this at a federal level, but when it will come out is in question. The bottom line for those of us who attended this session was: At the very least the Regulation needs to ban employers from discouraging or preventing workers from reporting injuries and/or safety hazards.

Here’s what other RNs had to say:

Ingela Dahlgren, RN, Executive Director, Nurse Alliance of California

“What an amazing conference! Not only did I learn a lot about OSHA but what was so impressive was the sheer power of all of us. Several of the attending unions had exactly the same problems as we have and they shared brilliant solutions. Unity is definitely a word that they have found the true meaning of. We started to get to know same of the people that have done an impressive amount of work particularly on the Workplace Violence Issue. They shared all their material so we can get a head start on next year’s legislative work!”

Jim Owen, RN, Local 121RN:

“OSHA protects all of us from Laborers, Steel Workers to Nurses. Without these protections nurses and patients will be at risk. Hospital corporations want us not to know our occupational safety rights. The COSH conference helped educate me to utilize OSHA to protect our nurses and patients.”

Bill Borwegen, Director of Safety and Health, SEIU:

“There is nothing more powerful in our fight for safer and healthier work places than when union activists gather to share their knowledge, skills and tactics.”

Richard Negri, New Media Campaign Manager, SEIU Healthcare:

“Amen! :)”

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