Article 18 encompasses health and safety in a myriad of ways
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Article 18 in the PS&T contract deals with health and safety, and provides for several measures to eliminate the potential of an on-the-job injury or illness that may result in a workers’ compensation claim.
It also provides for a joint statewide health and safety committee where PEF may advise the state of areas of concern, as proactive measures can be implemented to improve the health and safety in worksites.
PEF Region 8 and 10 Coordinators Michael Blue and Darlene Williams respectively, are the co-chairs of the Article 18 statewide committee. They said PEF meets with representatives from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) on a quarterly basis.
“We have worked to implement a better system,” Blue said. “When a health or safety issue is first recognized, it is addressed by a local level health and safety committee. If it is not resolved, the issue is then discussed at the agency level committee. If the agency cannot resolve the local issue, or has unresolved agency issues, they are directed to the statewide committee.”
Blue said the good news is most of the issues are being handled at the appropriate level, and that fewer items were being brought to the statewide committee.
Article 18 deals with various issues such as indoor air quality, ergonomics, violence and assaults on employees, infectious-disease control, toxic exposure and safety equipment.
A recent incident involved a female PEF member who was going to her car after work, and was brutally attacked (See the March Communicator page 14) in the state’s Albany Elk Street Lot. Blue said PEF issued a statement after the incident, urging state officials to increase safety precautions, which the state Office of General Services did in response to PEF’s request. They include more staff, improved lighting, additional cameras and emergency phone boxes.
“Through the years, and some unfortunate and avoidable incidents, PEF has established a good rapport with the state, as we all understand the importance of health and safety,” Blue said.
Williams said another benefit of Article 18 is the Safety and Health Initiatives Program (SHIP).
The SHIP provides grant funding up to a maximum of $15,000 to assist in the development of safety and health programs and training.
These grants may be used to support a variety of initiatives such as blood-borne pathogens and tuberculosis training, safe patient handling, hazard assessment, and emergency preparedness or response, among others.
“We encourage multi-agency or statewide projects. A project may include employees of other bargaining units, as long as PEF-represented employees benefit from it,” Williams said. “A good starting point in selecting a project is to evaluate which job hazards are causing injury, illness or workers’ compensation costs.”
More information on SHIP grants is available on the PEF website. Go to Member Resources, click on health and safety, then available grants.