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Sample Health and Safety Contract Language

General Duty

A “General Duty” clause makes the employer responsible to provide safe work and a safe workplace. A general duty clause is a catch-all way to cover just about any health and safety problem.

Be clear in the language that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace and to comply with OSHA and other federal, state or local health and safety regulations. It is reasonable for the employers to expect that their employees will follow safe work practices. However, neither the employees nor the union should assume responsibility for providing a safe workplace.

Occupational health and safety is the mutual concern of the Employer, the Union and employees. Employees or the Union shall report safety and health hazards of which they are aware to their supervisor. The Employer shall comply with applicable federal, state and local safety laws, rules, and regulations. Nothing in this Agreement shall imply that the Union has assumed legal responsibility for the health and safety of employees.


Right to Refuse Unsafe Work (No Discrimination)

Workers need to know they will not lose their job if they speak out or act to protect themselves. In nearly all cases, workers will be in a better position to preserve their jobs by using their rights under a labor agreement than by relying on OSHA to safeguard their jobs.

An employee acting in good faith has the right to refuse to work under conditions that the employee reasonably believes present an imminent danger of death or serious harm to the employee. The Employer shall not discipline or discriminate against an employee for a good faith refusal to perform assigned tasks if the employee has requested that the Employer correct the hazardous conditions but the conditions are not corrected, and the danger was one that a reasonable person under the circumstances would conclude is an imminent danger of death or serious harm. An employee who has refused in good faith to perform assigned tasks shall retain the right to continued employment and receive full compensation for the tasks that would have been performed.


Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment

Employers should provide or pay for clothing or equipment that workers need to protect themselves.

Personal protective clothing and equipment shall be furnished and maintained by the Employer without cost to employees whenever such equipment is required as a condition of employment or is required by OSHA or other agency.



There are no OSHA standards for some of the most serious and common hazards faced by AFSCME members. The sample contract clauses below are examples of negotiating protections beyond those contained in OSHA regulations.


Communicable Diseases

The Employer shall provide information and training to employees on communicable diseases to which he/she may have routine workplace exposure. Information and training shall include the symptoms of diseases, modes of transmission, methods of self-protection, workplace infection control procedures, special precautions and recommendations for immunizations where applicable. The Employer shall make the hepatitis B and/or other appropriate vaccinations available to employees who are at risk of occupational exposure to infectious agents.


Video Display Terminals (VDTs)

The Employer shall provide video display terminal operators with ergonomically appropriate workstations. The design of the workstations and the equipment and furniture shall be consistent with the recommendations and future revisions contained in the American National Standards Institute for Human Factors Engineering of Visual Display Terminal Workstations (ANSI/HFS 100-1988).

The Employer will schedule at least fifteen (15) minutes of non-VDT work every two hours for those workers who use video display terminals. Non-VDT work periods are in addition to rest periods provided elsewhere in the collective bargaining agreement.

Any employee who regularly operates a VDT may obtain an annual eye examination. The cost of the examination and corrective lenses beyond that covered by the employee’s insurance shall be paid for by the Employer.


Workplace Violence

Violence Prevention Program

The Employer, in cooperation with the Union, shall develop a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program that includes:

(a) methods for identifying work practices and environmental factors that may lead to violence;

(b) measures that will reduce the risks for violence, including training for employees;

(c) procedures for responding to violence if it occurs; and

(d) the provision of support to staff who have experienced violence.


The Employer must provide an adequate level of trained and permanent staff to cope with the level of demand generated by patients, clients, and their relatives and friends.


The Employer agrees to maintain reasonably secure parking facilities for all employees. Security will be provided for employees who work at night and on weekends.


The Employer shall provide employees with appropriate and adequate Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). CISD is to be used for critical job-related incidents including, but not limited to, serious work injury, work-related death of co-workers, or the suicide of a co-worker.


Assault leave shall be granted to an employee who is unable to work and who, therefore, is absent from his/her assigned duties because of disability resulting from a physical assault which is clearly unprovoked. Assault leave will not be charged against sick or annual leave. Employees granted assault leave shall be maintained on full pay status during such absence, up to a maximum of 90 working days.


The Employer will provide employees with training in techniques for recognizing potentially violent situations/ behavior; defusing violent situations; and protecting themselves. The Employer will provide annual refresher training.

Indoor Air Quality

The Employer shall ensure a healthful and comfortable indoor air environment for employees in all buildings that are owned or leased. The ventilation rates, temperature and humidity inside owned or leased buildings shall meet or exceed the recommendations established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Air handling systems shall be cleaned and maintained as necessary to prevent harmful exposure to contaminants.

Complaints concerning indoor air quality will be referred to the health and safety committee. The investigation of complaints may include occupant surveys, inspection of a building’s condition, sampling or other measures necessary to determine the cause of indoor air quality problems. The selection and use of any consultants in the investigation or remediation of indoor air problems shall be made in consultation with the health and safety committee. All information and reports shall be provided to the health and safety committee.

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