Recap: 2023 USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference

Read our recap of the 2023 USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference.

The United Steelworkers (USW) hosted over 2,000 Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America (CWA), management counterparts and other environmental and labor activists at their 2023 Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., April 16-21. Workers came from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada to attend the conference. This conference was the first HSE conference held since COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted. The last HSE Conference took place in 2019.

During the conference, attendees participated in plenary sessions with a wide variety of speakers and panels. On Tuesday, attendees got to hear from numerous speakers including Tom Conway, the USW International President, and Marty Warren, the USW Canadian National Director. These union leaders highlighted the USW’s long history of advocating for safer workplaces for all, and encouraged members to continue fighting for safe and healthy work environments.

In addition, the HSE Department showcased the USW Worker’s Memorial Scroll. In honor of the fallen workers, a poem was read by Connie Brown from the USW HSE Department and a song was performed by Duronda Pope, the director of the USW Emergency Response Team (ERT). This part of the plenary session recognized all of the Steelworkers, Communications Workers, contractors and managers who were killed on the job from Aug. 23, 2019 to April 11, 2023.

The USW Worker’s Memorial Scroll and select plenary speeches can be found on the USW’s YouTube page at the following link:

This conference provided the opportunity for members and employers to hear from the government agencies charged with protecting workers’ health and safety. A panel consisting of a representative from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) discussed current initiatives, future plans and answered questions from audience members during Thursday’s plenary session.

The second panel featured health and safety successes in a variety of different industries. To begin, the panel highlighted the collaboration between union and management at Toledo Refining Company (PFB Energy) to successfully implement and advance the USW Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program. It also showcased the achievements of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s Radiological Control Technician (RCT) program which resulted in the employment of 19 students in USW jobs at the Department of Energy (DOE) site. Lastly, the panel recognized the accomplishments of the newly implemented USW health and safety programs for health care workers. This conference was the first to highlight health care workers and to offer a workshop track dedicated to attendees from this sector.

Outside of the plenary sessions, workers had the opportunity to attend workshops of their choosing to strengthen their knowledge and skills in occupational and environmental health and safety. Workshops were conducted by a diverse team of facilitators, including worker-trainers from the Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC), the USW Education Department, other labor unions including the CWA, and more. Workshop topics ranged from environmental and occupational standards, disaster preparedness and response, hazard mapping, the aging workforce, social media use, to health care classes and more. This year, the conference also offered an OSHA 10-hour general industry course for attendees who wanted to receive their OSHA 10 card. Following the conference, workers were able to take back the knowledge, skills and various resources obtained in the workshops to their sites.

The USW HSE conferences are held every 18 months, with the next conference projected to take place in the fall of 2024. The TMC is proud of the immense attendance and the solidary built at the 2023 HSE Conference, and hopes to replicate this in future conferences.