We’ve developed useful tools and strategies to help eliminate some of the “traditional” dangers faced by our members – exposure to chemicals, noise, temperature extremes, poor indoor air quality, and asbestos.
Now, we also need to engage our members in more militant health and safety activism so that we can take on the key health and safety issues of the day. These issues include stress, occupational diseases and workplace violence – which includes all types of harassment, bullying and air rage – and the physical and emotional injuries resulting from cutbacks, privatization and excessive workload. The health and safety threats created by homophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are a specific challenge for health and safety activists.
We must address these challenges in every way – through collective bargaining, by raising awareness and building support on-the-ground for the fight for healthy and safe workplaces (including active membership resistance as problems arise), by integrating health and safety issues into our locals’ daily priorities, and through our joint committee work. We need to renew our focus on workers’ rights. We simply can’t hand these critical and tough issues over to health and safety representatives to deal with alone.
We also need to address all forms of harassment that lead to a poisoned workplace environment, stress and often violence.
Aboriginal communities and other marginalized communities experience increased environmental hazards, such a toxic waste dumping and unsafe water. The process of concentrating environmental hazards in particular communities based on race is known as environmental racism. These practices must be exposed and challenged.