Cornell University

April 26 2013

Involving Labor and Management

Proactively prevent accidents on job through collaboration, Brown says

Labor-management collaboration can save lives, according to Nellie Brown, director of ILR Workplace Health & Safety Programs and an associate of the Worker Institute at Cornell.

Workplace safety issues have been leading many news reports across the nation since April 17, when a fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people and injured more than 200 in West, Texas.

State and federal workplace investigations continue at the facility today to determine the blast’s origin. Some have faulted safety violations allegedly unnoticed by government agencies for the tragedy.

In addition to adherence to regulations, Brown recommends employee-manager health and safety committees to improve job sites. A biologist, chemist and certified industrial hygienist, she specializes in occupational safety and health.

A committee increases communication between workers and management whether it is organized by the union, by management, or – preferably – by a joint labor-management team, Brown said.

The collaboration can improve safety through steps such as opening access to company toxic materials data and by involving employees in auditing and reporting problems and proposing solutions, she said.

"Communication helps correct hazards and can prevent deadly accidents. A proposed federal standard, which would require employers to put in place an injury and illness prevention program, strongly advocates for worker involvement," Brown said.