Mark Poupore and CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Josh Kemp examine a potential safety hazard.
Mark Poupore and CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Josh Kemp examine a potential safety hazard.

SYRACUSE — When CSEA members at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse decided to revitalize their Safety and Health Committee last year after a several-year hiatus, it was easy to come up with a substantial list of concerns and hazards that needed to be addressed.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Local Vice President Mark Poupore brought a group of seven members together with CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Josh Kemp, who provided training for the committee.

The list of ‘to do’ items they came up with afterwards was daunting, including:

  • I beams at head level on a chiller unit that were not clearly marked;
  • Trip hazards from pavers heaved up in the cold;
  • Doors not opening due to frost heaves preventing safe egress;
  • Uncertified forklift operators;
  • Trip hazards due to decaying floor mats;
  • An uninspected personal lifting device; and
  • Lack of required Right To Know trainings.

Poupore, who serves as chair of the local’s new safety and health committee, said that the committee met every four months to keep on task. Committee members met with the campus safety officer, as well as participated in annual campus-wide labor-management meetings to share their concerns with management. Different committee members took responsibility of handling different concerns throughout the campus.

The result? By the end of last summer, the committee was able to address every single item on their list. As an added bonus, they arranged to hold a well-attended driving safety class for their membership.

Poupore said addressing the safety issues has had a very positive impact on campus.

“It benefits us as a whole because our members are seeing that things can change and are getting done,” he said. “It creates a more positive atmosphere in the workplace, because members know that they can come into work, do their job, and come home at the end of the day, and do it all safely, without incident. That’s huge — it gives us peace of mind.”

And the icing on the cake? That member who was concerned about his forklift certification being out of date? He now drives that forklift around with a smile on his face.

— Mark M. Kotzin

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Mark Kotzin has been passionately advocating on behalf of workers for more than 29 years, previously as the communications specialist in our union's Central Region, and currently as CSEA's statewide Director of Communications.

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