A safe workplace is everyone's business

A torn carpet here, leaky pipes there, and loose wires in the next office--all of these add up to unsafe working conditions.

Gardeners and groundskeepers are constantly exposed to the holes in the ground, debris, faulty equipment, broken pipes protruding from the ground, and many types of chemicals.

Bus drivers, maintenance crews and warehouse workers are exposed to chemicals, spills of toxic and slippery materials, carbon monoxide, and faulty equipment.

Food service workers are subject to very hot and cold materials, sharp objects, broken glass and china, wet floors, crowded conditions, and even an occasional food fight.

Clerical workers and paraprofessionals are exposed to loose tiles, computer terminals, torn carpets, slippery floors, faulty and loose wiring, sharp edges of office furniture, flammable materials, asbestos, and every disease known to childhood.

Report unsafe conditions

A safe and healthy workplace is your legal right. But employees are often the ones who spot safety problems in the work place and therefore are most able to remedy them. So when you see unsafe conditions, be sure to report them.

If you find unsafe working conditions-anything from a blocked fire exit to an overly stressful job function—bring it to the attention of your CSEA site representative, job steward, or another chapter representative. If you have a chapter health and safety committee, bring problems to their attention.

Often times too much emphasis is placed on the employee working safely, and not enough is focused on the employer's obligation to provide a safe and healthy work place. Lack of action could endanger you and your co-workers, so don't assume the employer will take care of the problem—follow up on it.

Form a safety committee

One way to remedy health and safety problems is for chapter members to form a health and safety committee. The committee can focus attention on specific problems, monitor employer actions, and assist employees in pursuing health and safety complaints. It also can assist the chapter negotiating team in coming up with contract language that addresses health and safety problems.

If your chapter does not have a health and safety committee, why not volunteer to start one? For more information, contact a chapter officer or your CSEA labor relations representative.