In an unprecedented move, Ford Motor Co., the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) and OSHA formed a partnership to improve worker health and safety conditions in its manufacturing plants.
The partnership is the first of its kind between an automotive company, employee union and the federal government.
"Ford, the UAW and OSHA share the goal of providing a safe and healthy working environment in our global manufacturing facilities," said James Padilla, group vice president -- Global Manufacturing at Ford. "By working as a team, we harness the best resources and knowledge available to achieve this goal.
As a result of the partnership, Ford, UAW and OSHA have jointly developed plant inspection protocols that address material handling and hazards specific to the automotive industry.
The protocols incorporate comprehensive health and safety standards adopted by Ford and UAW as long ago as 1973 and cover a variety of areas including chemical safety, skilled trade hazards, confined spaces, noise control, and use of protective gear, plant vehicles and machinery.
Ford has agreed to share its health and safety monitoring system, SHARP, with OSHA representatives.
It will also help train OSHA inspectors about the automotive industry and the health and safety issues it faces.
"The goal of this partnership is to reduce injury and illness rates through improved safety and health programs," said OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress. "This unique coalition sets a new precedent for public-private cooperation and addresses our mutual goal of protecting the hard-working men and women of Ford Motor."
The agreement reduces the likelihood of using wall-to-wall OSHA plant inspections as a means of assessing health and safety compliance.
Instead, Ford and UAW will track plant health and safety incidents, submit an annual safety report to OSHA and hold an annual plant review with agency representatives.
OSHA will also conduct an informal walk-through of the facility during this review and may return to a facility if it wants further data and reviews of particular health and safety issues.
Company and union representatives will meet with OSHA to conduct the annual review.
"This is an important step forward in our efforts to make sure all our employees have a safer workplace," said Ron Gettelfinger, vice president and director, UAW National Ford Department. "This agreement will lead to better communication and a better process."
All Ford plants covered by the agreement are located in federal OSHA enforcement states.
Ford also intends to pursue similar agreements with state OSHA organizations.
The new partnership is in effect for three years.
by Virginia Sutcliffe