BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Workers World Today) – Keeping a pack safe in the workplace first starts with the shop steward – a construction site’s go-to person for job protection.
Often referred to as a company’s first line of defense, a shop steward helps those who are injured on the job receive medical care and compensation. During the first few minutes of an injury it is important to secure medical care, then a timeline of the events and complete a claim for worker’s compensation.
In addition, shop stewards are the point person for dealings with upper management. Experts say it is important to keep a level head while organizing against these disputes. This will help the client retain their legal rights and give them the greatest number of options for the future.
Experts advise injured workers to avoid making oral statements, instead, they should offer general answers. For example, “I fell from the scaffold” is a simple statement. If the employer wants more detail, the worker should say that he is still in shock and pain and needs a few days before he talks in greater detail. Next, the worker should immediately consult a lawyer.
Attorneys also advise using written statements to confirm the events of an injury. For example, these written statements may be used by insurance companies to evaluate who is at fault. In addition, these statements are the groundwork for building a case against the employer. The statements should include an in-depth analysis of the causes of the accident. For example, this might include a primary cause such as a wet floor that caused a slip or secondary causes, such as an employee not wearing safety gear. Lastly, a written statement can also include recommendations for corrective action. For example, preventative maintenance such as protecting, updating equipment as well as conducting a job hazard analysis can help lower the threats of an accident.
As a shop steward, it is also important to interview witnesses before bosses have a chance to intimidate or bribe the workers. The employers often try and deny that an accident happened by building up an army of witnesses who can falsify the claim. Written statements from witnesses help to corroborate the circumstances of an incident.
But outside of handling workplace accidents, the shop steward plays a role in providing information to union leadership, organizing meetings and welcoming new employees. For example, a shop steward will organize work actions, petitions and demonstrations. Also, it is the job of the shop steward to notify workers of changes to collective bargaining agreements and introduce employees to any new or updated union policies.
Ultimately, if you’re interested in becoming a shop steward, experts advise clients to become familiar with all the employees on the site and understand their positions. In addition, if you’d like to get ahead, it helps to be persistent as well as a warrior for workplace equality.
Tatyana Bellamy Walker is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the NY Amsterdam News, DNAinfo.com and The Daily Beast.