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National COSH Releases Guidelines For “A Safe And Just Return To Work” - Workers Must Be Included In Safety Plans, Say Health Experts, As Wave Of Walkouts Leads To New Protections

Published Monday, May 18, 2020
by National COSH News
National COSH Releases Guidelines For “A Safe And Just Return To Work” - Workers Must Be Included In Safety Plans, Say Health Experts, As Wave Of Walkouts Leads To New Protections

“My Co-Workers are getting sick and ‘we know this disease can be fatal,’ says Sofia, a pseudonym for a Worker at an undisclosed Case Farms Poultry Plant on the East Coast. “We ‘want to do our jobs and help feed people during this crisis, but we need to know our employer is listening to us and doing everything possible to make our workplace safe.’  ‘Right now, that is not happening.’”

To ensure safety for Sofia - and millions of others who are still working or will return to work in the coming weeks and months - the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) has released a new report: A Safe and Just Return to Work.

“The United States is far from being ready to open for business without putting not only Workers but entire communities at grave risk of illness and death,” states the report introduction. “Only the most essential businesses should be open, and even those must only be allowed to operate if critical safety measures are in place - that are monitored and enforced.”

The document, with comprehensive guidelines for Workplace Safety, Worker participation and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk Workers, was prepared by experts convened by National COSH.

Writers and contributors include certified Industrial Hygienists, Academicians, Attorneys, Physicians and leaders of Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organizations.

“The post-COVID world ‘will be different in many ways,’” National COSH Co-Executive Director Jessica Martinez said. “One difference ‘we insist on: Workers must be at the table, actively involved in decisions about Workplace Safety - at their own workplaces and when creating Local, State and Federal Guidelines.’”

U.S. Workers are at high risk in workplaces identified as hot spots for the spread of COVID-19, including slaughterhouses, nursing homes and prisons.

A Safe and Just Return to Work calls for the inclusion of Workers and their Unions on all task forces, commissions and advisory boards established by governors, mayors and other public officials to establish rules and procedures for workplaces currently operating and those scheduled to re-open.

“Unfortunately, both before and during the current crisis, ‘an unequal balance of power in the workplace means that safety often takes a back seat’ - ‘especially for Workers of Color, Immigrants and others in marginalized communities,’” said Martinez, whose group links the efforts of local Worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.

“Fortunately, Working People ‘are not accepting the status quo,” she continued.  “The ‘risk and horrible consequences’ of COVID-19 ‘have led to an unprecedented number of walk-outs and other job actions’ – and ‘in most cases, Workers have been successful in winning protections to reduce risks to themselves, Co-Workers, their families and the public at large.’”

The report emphasizes that a safe, just return to work – now and into the future – requires, at a minimum, the following elements:

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