US green watchdog backs worker role in inspections

The US government’s environmental watchdog has accepted workers and union reps should be allowed to participate in official workplace safety inspections conducted under the Clean Air Act, according to a report in the March issue of Life Lines, the newsletter of the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA).

The clarification came when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed to take steps to institutionalise worker and union involvement in workplace inspections conducted in workplaces using extremely hazardous substances. The move was prompted by a letter to EPA initiated by the New Jersey Work Environment Council.

“The old procedure was a remnant of the last Administration’s policy,” said Terence M O’Sullivan, president of the laborers’ union LIUNA. O’Sullivan co-signed the letter, along with a host of labour, environmental, health, occupational safety and health and advocacy organisations. 

“It is a positive sign that the EPA acted immediately to correct the problem after we pointed it out,” said O’Sullivan. “Now, in chemical facilities where Laborers work, we expect the agency to make sure our members and business agents have the same opportunity to offer safety and health suggestions and help evaluate corrective measures as does management. Not only will this enhance our members’ safety, it will help protect people who live or work near these facilities.”

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