Union cooperation on matters of safety and health, the establishment of a joint local labor-management safety and health committee, protective clothing, and safety "dos and don'ts" are the most frequently appearing subjects in 744 private-sector collective bargaining agreements expiring between August 1997 and July 2007
Safety and health issues are a major concern today for both employers and union representatives. The cost of workers compensation and health care benefits, the long-tailed effect of exposure to health hazards, the premature loss of future years of employment, and the prevention of human suffering are some of the reasons for this concern. Collective bargaining negotiations are potential arenas for the exploration, discussion, and formalization of philosophies, intentions, and procedures regarding safety and health matters. However, the actual extent to which these matters are examined in contemporary collective bargaining agreements is unknown, Accordingly, this article investigates the prevalence and types of safety and health provisions included in the current collective bargaining agreements of large private-sector U.S. firms.
A 1976 study examined the prevalence of 26 safety- and health-related subjects in 1,724 major collective bargaining agreements covering 1,000 or more workers and maintained in a file by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.(1) The contracts covered 7.9 million workers, or about one-half of all workers who were included in collective bargaining agreements in the industries studied. The contracts were in effect during mid-1974, with most of them remaining in effect in 1975 and beyond.
The safety and health subjects analyzed in the 1976 study were (1) general policy statements; (2) union-management cooperation; (3) dissemination of safety rules and procedures; (4) dissemination of information to unions; (5) safety and health committees; (6) employer compliance with safety requirements; (7) employee compliance with safety requirements; (8) employee discipline for noncompliance with safety rules; (9) safety and health inspections; (10) work performed under unsafe conditions; (11) final authority in safety disputes; (12) safety equipment; (13) safe tools, equipment, and transportation; (14) crew size and working in isolation; (15) types of safety protection; (16) protection against noxious gases or dust; (17) sanitation, housekeeping, and personal hygiene; (18) provisions for physical examinations; (19) alcohol and drugs; (20) accident procedures; (21) first aid and hospital facilities; (22) personnel assigned to treat injuries; (23) compensation for job-related injuries (excluding workers' compensation), vacation, holiday, and other payments not available to, or in addition to, those available to employees with non-occupational disabilities; (24) leave and transfer rights of disabled workers; and (25) pay differentials for hazardous duty.
In addition to these 25 subjects, some ancillary subjects related to them were also examined in the study. Information on the ancillary subjects was somewhat more detailed than that on the broader subjects to which they were related. For example, ancillary subjects studied in the area of safety and health committees were eligibility for committee membership, the term of service on the committee, the frequency of committee meetings, and compensation of committee members
Of the 1,724 agreements that were reviewed, 1,607, or 93 percent, contained one or more of the 26 safety and health subjects that appeared in the 1976 study. The most prevalent subject in the agreements was compensation for injuries, which was included in 60 percent of the contracts. The other subjects appearing most frequently in the agreements were safety equipment (49 percent); employee compliance with safety requirements (46 percent); union-management cooperation (43 percent); sanitation, housekeeping, and personal hygiene (40 percent); and employer compliance with safety requirements (33 percent).
Safety and health environment today
The occupational safety and health environment has changed considerably during the more than 20 years that have elapsed since the 1976 study. A major change in the environment was prompted by the Hazard Communication Standard issued in 1983 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This standard requires employers to label hazardous chemicals, prepare material safety data sheets, and train employees on how to handle chemicals and what to do in the event of accidental spillage. Another major change was a growing awareness on the part of both employers and union representatives of the dangers in the workplace to workers' health, particularly from biological, ergonomic, and chemical hazards. Hepatitis and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are relatively recent diseases that employers did not face in the past. In the last 10 years, the incidence of occupational ergonomic disease--particularly, cumulative trauma--has risen, fundamentally changing the design of workplaces, the methods of accomplishing work, and the selection and training of workers.
Other changes include increased outsourcing of work to contractors, greater litigiousness of workers and attorneys with regard to occupational injuries and illnesses, and a growing awareness of the value of preventive measures, including employee wellness programs, in maintaining a healthy work force. Also, since 1976, unions have assumed a more prominent role in protecting the health and safety of workers. The changing nature of the internal and external environmental factors affecting worker occupational safety and health warrants a reexamination of union and management efforts to address the topic in the collective bargaining arena.
The database utilized for the study presented in this article is a file of approximately 1,200 private-sector collective bargaining agreements maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This file includes virtually all agreements in the private sector covering 1,000 workers or more. To ascertain a current view of how safety and health issues are being formalized in collective bargaining agreements, only contracts expiring between August 1997 and July 2007 (the latest expiration date in the file) were included in the study. Application of this criterion resulted in a sample of 744 agreements. The firms in the sample represent large employers, as measured by the number of employees covered by the respective labor agreements. The number covered by the 744 agreements ranges from 650 to 215,000.
Prevalence and types of provisions
Of the 744 agreements reviewed, 433 (or 58 percent) contain one or more separate safety and health clauses. Table 1 lists the workers covered and the number of contracts with safety and health provisions, by industry. The workers represented by the 433 agreements with safety and health provisions constitute 18 percent of all workers covered by the 744 union agreements.
Table 1. Employees covered by private-sector collective bargaining contracts, with safety and health clauses, expiring between August 1997 and July 2007, by industry Industry group Workers Contracts All industries 1,864,847 433 Mining 31,185 6 Construction Building construction 121,380 47 Heavy construction 140,360 36 Special trade construction 82,730 43 Manufacturing Food and kindred products 33,950 18 Textile mill products 5,100 2 Apparel 53,720 7 Lumber and wood products 7,200 4 Paper 26,340 23 Printing 7,558 4 Chemicals 7,990 7 Rubber 9,215 6 Stone, clay and glass 16,100 8 Primary metal 99,749 29 Fabricated metal 14,743 6 Industrial machinery 32,324 13 Electronic machinery 103,770 22 Transportation equipment 471,372 33 Measuring instruments 4,850 2 Nonmanufacturing Motor freight transport 53,585 5 Communications 154,329 18 Electric, gas, and sanitary services 64,787 23 Wholesale trade 1,000 1 Food stores 134,344 27 Eating and drinking places 4,000 2 Miscellaneous retail 1,000 1 Insurance carriers 1,200 1 Hotels and other lodging 17,300 3 Business services 10,300 4 Automotive repair 1,000 1 Motion pictures 59,681 4 Health services 86,960 24 Legal services 975 1 Educational services 4,750 2
Forty-three different safety and health provisions were identified in the labor contracts analyzed. Nine other ancillary subjects involving labor-management safety and health committees also were analyzed. To facilitate discussion, these 52 provisions are grouped into five distinct categories: occupational health clauses; ergonomic-related clauses; clauses related to union-management relations as they pertain to safety and health issues; individual-employee safety-related clauses; and clauses related to safety and health technology, maintenance, or operation. In addition, an "other" category is included consisting of 10 subjects that appeared less frequently than the 52 provisions discussed in the first five categories.
As shown in table 1, the number of contracts with safety and health provisions and the numbers of workers covered by the contracts vary considerably among industries. Two types of analyses were conducted to facilitate an understanding of the interactions among the industries, number of contracts, provisions, and workers covered. First, with the exception of the "other" category, the number of contracts, both overall and by industry, were analyzed in terms of the aforementioned specific categories of safety and health clauses. In addition, also with the exception of the "other" category, a separate analysis is reported for the number of workers covered by the 52 provisions.
The study included an analysis of 10 types of clauses relating to occupational health. In addition, four ancillary clauses related to local labor-management safety and health committee involvement in occupational health issues, as well as three ancillary clauses related to national labor-management safety and health committees on the subject, were analyzed. As shown in table 2, these provisions address, among other issues, concerns with air hygiene, chemical hygiene, the disclosure of hazardous information to workers, the protection of the work environment, fitness centers, using employee teams to communicate with workers about workplace hazards, health promotion programs, local and national labor-management safety and health committees, and noise abatement.
Table 2: Incidence of occupational health clauses in private-sector collective bargaining contracts expiring between August 1997 and July 2007 Provision Number of Percent of contracts contracts All contracts with safety and health provisions 433 100 Contracts with provisions for Air hygiene 42 9 Chemical hygiene 55 13 Disclosure of hazardous information 48 11 The environment 29 7 Fitness centers 8 2 A hazard communication team 28 6 A health promotion program 28 6 A local labor-management safety and health committee 219 50 To study chemical and air conditions 35 8 To study industrial hygiene 50 11 To study noise abatement programs 25 6 To review hazard communication programs 96 22 A national labor-management safety and health committee 56 13 To evaluate employee health exposures 37 8 To evaluate protective cloth 17 4 To study air quality 12 3 Noise abatement 42 10
Several of the …