SARATOGA SPRINGS — A shared commitment to safe, healthy work sites and strong working relationship between our union and management are helping our members employed by the City of Saratoga Springs work more safely.
“Getting something done, if there is a problem, is a pretty easy process,” said Lisa Nolan, Saratoga Springs City Hall Unit vice president and chair of the city’s occupational safety and health committee.
For years, city management has worked cooperatively with labor to help minimize potential safety issues.
Nolan noted that when potential safety concerns arose at a city water treatment plant, CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Gary China toured the facility.
Because the plant was built before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency phased out building materials containing asbestos and lead-based paint in 1980, China recommended testing for these substances. Other concerns included equipment noise levels, lack of maintenance tags on portable fire extinguishers, lack of safety guards on a bench grinder and air compressor, electrical wiring and outlet and a damaged door.
City officials quickly implemented China’s recommendations.
China and committee members also helped city officials develop a permit-required confined space entry program, including establishing a written program, recommending equipment and training workers.
“The city recognized the importance of having their employees protected while performing work in these type of spaces,” China said. “(City officials) did not want a repeat of member fatalities such as the one that happened in Tarrytown (where Southern Region members Anthony Ruggiero and John Kelly died in 2010 from asphyxiation after being overcome by toxic gases in a village manhole). I just wish there were more employers like Saratoga Springs. A good employer makes our members safer.”
Nolan also credits the committee’s success to a “proactive” risk and safety director, a good working relationship with management and monthly meetings during which potential problems are reported and addressed.
“When an agenda item is identified, it is not removed until it is fixed,” Nolan said.
Nolan’s advice to members who feel there might be a health or safety issue in their workplace, or who have identified a problem and are awaiting resolution, is to speak up.
“Say something to a union rep,” she said. “Sometimes, people expect things to be taken care of. We believe in asking. You have a voice — use it.”
— Therese Assalian