DOL Allies With Unions to Fight Drug Abuse

While OSHA and the Department of Labor (DOL) have increasingly turned to alliances as a way to improve workplace safety, labor representatives have been critical of how few of these alliances include unions.

But in October, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao signed an alliance agreement with the leaders of four international labor unions in a cooperative effort to improve worker health and safety by encouraging alcohol- and drug-free workplaces and mines.

The four labor groups that agreed to join the alliance are: the International Union of Operating Engineers; the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers; and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace Program will work with the four unions to provide union members and the construction industry with information, guidance and training resources that will communicate the benefits of drug-free workplace programs and better protect workers' health and safety. The organizations will focus especially on educating workers on safety hazards created by the abuse of alcohol and other drugs in workplaces and mines.

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 77 percent of the nation's adults who have alcohol or drug abuse or dependence problems are employed either full- or part-time. In addition, a 1998 Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis showed that as many as 20 percent of toxicology screens following workplace fatalities tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol.

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