McWane and United Steelworkers Agree to Joint Worker Safety Efforts

April 23, 2003
As part of an apparent new-found commitment to worker safety, senior management of Birmingham, Ala.'s, McWane Industries Inc. met with the national leadership of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) to discuss cooperative efforts toward a goal of providing a safe work environment.

McWane was the subject of a joint investigation by PBS's "Frontline," the New York Times and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. titled "A Dangerous Business." The investigation characterized the company as one of the most unsafe employers in the country.

Recently, representatives from the company approached OSHA and indicated a desire to improve safety and health at the company and enhance the safety program.

At the meeting between USWA and McWane, the union acknowledged the substantial investment in health and safety that McWane has already made, and the company's commitment to further improvements. McWane and the USWA also agreed to establish a corporate-level, joint union-management safety and health task force to improve the effectiveness of the joint health and safety committees at each plant and increase employee involvement in the company's efforts to further improve its safety programs.

G. Ruffner Page Jr., president of McWane, and Leo W. Gerard, international president, USWA, released a joint statement saying union leadership and company management "are determined to ensure the safest possible working conditions for all McWane employees."

Page said McWane recognizes the importance of employee and union participation in the safety and health program. Gerard said USWA recognizes the substantial investment in safety and health that McWane has already made and the company's commitment to further improvements.

According to the statement, McWane and the USWA will:

  • Work together to improve the skills, functions and authority of the joint safety and health committees in USWA-represented plants.
  • Increase cooperation on safety and health training and will create a new program of company-funded training for safety and health committee members, which McWane and USWA expect will be delivered largely by union trainers.
  • Work to review and continuously improve McWane's established system of safety and health auditing, job safety analysis and accident investigation. Worker and union participation is critical to the success of any safety program and will work together to increase it.
  • Encourage all employees to report workplace hazards, suggest how to correct them and to report all occupational injuries, illnesses, accidents and near misses. McWane and the union will work together to eliminate any impediments to reporting.

Page and Gerard said the company and the union will base EHS efforts on these key principles:

  • Safety is a value that must be honored in everything they do.
  • New and existing operations, technology, production methods and work practices should be analyzed for safety and, if necessary, modified.
  • No safety program will succeed unless it is based on mutual respect and incorporates the experience, skill and dedication of the workforce, the union and company management at all levels.
  • Accident investigation must focus on finding and correcting underlying problems, not on fixing blame.
  • Production and quality are important, but safety and health are more important. If a job cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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