Workers' Guide to Health and Safety

    Workers' Guide to Health and Safety

    Todd Jailer, Miriam Lara-Meloy, Maggie Robbins  |  2015


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    Easy to use and full of illustrations, the Workers' Guide to Health and Safety demystifies occupational safety to make it accessible to everyone. It provides essential tools to support employees, health promoters and union organizers in their efforts to create safer and healthier workplaces. The strategies are applicable to any factory setting, especially electronics, shoe and garment industries.

    “Work should be safe, dignified, and fair, and should not harm our health or the planet.”

    Workers' Guide to Health and Safety

    Work—how we spend most of our waking hours—has a huge effect on our health and our ability to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities. But in many factories around the world, workers face conditions that harm their health, endanger their lives, and keep them poor. The Workers' Guide to Health and Safety makes occupational safety and health information accessible to those most affected by workplace hazards—the workers themselves. From ergonomics, machine injuries, and chemical exposure to low wages, sexual harassment, abuse of migrant workers, and access to health care, this fully illustrated book draws on the experiences of factory workers and their communities to provide tools to organize for short- and long-term improvements. It offers illustrative activities and stories from workers and organizers that provide resources for training and ideas to help solve common workplace problems.

    The guide also includes an extensive chemical index that presents complex information in an easy-to-understand format. The index allows workers to identify chemicals and understand their short-term and chronic health effects, and to propose protective methods, including substituting safer chemicals, improving ventilation and using the correct protective equipment.

    View Sample Pages

    Table of Contents (PDF)
    Chapter 1: Working for a Living and Living Well (PDF)
    Chapter 7: Ergonomics (PDF)
    Chapter 27: Stress and Mental Health (PDF)

    Praise for Workers' Guide to Health and Safety

    “Globally, an estimated 2.3 million workers die every year from injuries at work and work related diseases. Many millions more are harmed by their work. This represents a colossal social and economic burden for enterprises, communities and countries, not to mention an appalling human and financial problem for workers and their families. Hesperian’s new publication is an excellent resource in helping workers achieve safe and dignified jobs. The Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety is full of innovative and sustainable ways for workers, employers, and consumers to make that right a reality.”
    Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO)

    "Hesperian's Workers' Guide is incredibly useful to factory workers and to all of us who need a better understanding of the toxic chemicals and power relations inside the factories that make the things we use every day. This book helps us take that big step toward sustainability and social justice."
    Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

    "The Workers' Guide is an incredibly practical, respectful resource workers will use to improve the quality of their jobs and their lives. Full of accurate technical information and motivational stories, the book proves that health and safety at work is achievable by organizing."
    Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

    Book Reviews

    Review: "A guide to enhance workers' organising capacities in export factories," European Trade Union Institute

    Review: “Promoting Worker Health on the Job and in the Community: A Vital Resource for Workers and Advocates,” NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy (PDF)

    Review: “Organizing for Better Lives,” Daniel M. Berman, Monthly Review (PDF)

    Review:‘Practical, respectful resources’ for workers to achieve safety at work,” The Pump Handle

    Interview: Co-author Miriam Lara-Meloy speaks about the book, KPFA’s La Raza Chronicles

    Review: Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety, Safeguard Magazine (PDF)

    Review:New Guide Shows How to Get a Voice and Power at Work,” Hazards Magazine, UK

    Review: Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety, RoSPA Occupational Safety & Health Journal (PDF)

    Review:A Practical Guide to Tackling Factory Hazards,” Kim Scipes, Labor Notes

    Research paper: “Where There Are Few Unions: Health and Safety Education for Organizing in Export Zones,” Judy Branfman, UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (PDF)

    About the Authors

    Contact Kokaale Amissah-Aidoo, Hesperian Outreach Coordinator, to arrange interviews by email at [email protected] or call 510-845-1447.

    Todd Jailer
    Todd Jailer is Hesperian’s Managing Editor. Prior to working in publishing, he worked in chemical, hat, and t-shirt factories, and as an industrial electrician. He has edited many books on labor and international topics as a member of the South End Press publishing collective.

    Todd lived for several years in El Salvador where he worked on publications for a number of popular organizations and unions, and supported the organizing of garment workers in El Salvador’s “free trade” factories. He has investigated conditions faced by garment workers in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, and Bangladesh, and collaborated in the development of the Solidarity Center publication, A Toolkit for Organizing International Campaigns.

    Miriam Lara-Meloy
    Miriam Lara-Meloy is a project coordinator at Hesperian Health Guides. In what once was the “jean capital of the world” in her native Mexico, Miriam learned that people’s health and wellbeing emerges from the interrelation of health access, fair wages, safe and healthy work, gender equality, and environmental justice.

    Through her volunteer work at a labor and human rights collective, as well as director of the first domestic abuse crisis line in the region, she helped create broad-based coalitions and saw firsthand the immense power that a group of dedicated and organized people can have in their workplaces and communities. As co-author of the Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety, she is part of local, national, and international networks, and remains passionate about Hesperian’s mission to make highly technical information understandable, accessible, and actionable for all.

    Maggie Robbins
    Maggie Robbins has more than 25 years of experience working in occupational safety and health, primarily for or with unions, including the Service Employees International Union, the California Labor Federation, and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

    She has worked as a writer, educator and curriculum developer with US unions, Hesperian Health Guides, the Industrial Health Resource Group of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Public Services International Africa sub-region. She strives to make health and safety concepts understandable and useful to workers organizing to improve their working conditions.

    Our unique and extensive field-testing process

    The content and illustrations in Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety were field-tested by 45 grassroots organizations in 25 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United States) and expert reviews were conducted by over 300 individuals around the world in OHS, trade unions, universities, health clinics, labor groups, NGOs, industry, business partnerships, among other fields.

    Translations and adaptations of Workers’ Guide

    Hesperian’s mission is to share our materials widely and we have been sharing Workers’ Guide materials since we began developing this book. Illustrations and content from this book have been used for variety of materials and trainings, among them: Health and Safety Organizing: A Workers’ Guide (by the Solidarity Center for workers in the oil industry); The POSH Worker Training Manual (by MAP for migrant workers in a variety of industries); in BSR’s HERProject training modules for workers in many industries including garment and electronics factories; in AMRC’S training materials; trainings for carwashers and people who work in lavanderias in LA; trainings by the Illinois Occupational & Environmental Health & Safety Education & Research Center; among many adaptations and translations in Bangla, Mandarin, Korean, Sindhi, Gujarati, and Spanish.

    We are now working on translations into Spanish, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, and Bangla. Help get this material into the languages of the workers that need it the most by donating today!