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The Scheinman Institute blog provides the latest information and news about the Institute's research, education, student engagement and outreach.

What is to be Done About Workplace Health and Safety?

woman wearing ppe putting on mask

On June 28th, the Scheinman Institute’s Employment and Labor ADR Hub hosted a virtual roundtable on the role of dispute resolution in resolving health and safety issues. Facilitated by Sally Klingel, Director of Labor-Management Relations Programs for the Institute, and Ellen Gallin Procida, the Institute’s Director of Public Sector Labor-Management Programs, the discussion touched on the interaction between workplace health and safety issues, dispute resolution, grassroots advocacy efforts and state and federal legislation.

Health and safety practices have been a prominent source of conflict in many workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. With federal, state and local public health policies in flux and often contested, employers and workers have clashed over safety standards, exemptions, compliance and disciplinary measures.

Noted arbitrator and mediator Martin Scheinman, founder of the Scheinman Institute, explained how he’s seen COVID shift the paradigm in workplace health and safety discussions. “What we confronted with COVID, at least in my world, was so much different than I ever imagined. There’s real, general controversy about doing things that reasonable people would think are common sense,” he shared.

President of the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten discussed the need to focus on workplace health and safety as a paramount issue. “There needs to be a cultural sense, by both employers and employees, that the safety and health of people are really important,” she said. “Whether it’s our schools, whether it’s our streets, whether it’s our workplaces,” health and safety must be recognized as a priority.

Jessica Martinez, Co-Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, spoke about the need for change in how safety and health issues are handled in workplaces. “We need to institutionalize structural requirements that every workplace have health and safety committees, and those committees have authority to be knowledgeable and implement programs that are effective and timely. The health and safety committees that I’m speaking to, just to be clear, have to have worker voices at the forefront. Workers more than anyone know the issues at the worksite.”

To view a recording of this highly thought-provoking discussion, one needs to be a member of the Scheinman ADR HUB, a destination for arbitrators, mediators, other neutrals, advocates, and practitioners to discuss current issues impacting the field of dispute resolution. To join the HUB and receive notice of future events, click here and sign up at the bottom of the page. If you are already a member, please log-in here to view the video.