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Introduction to Cures

“This section describes some of the more innovative stratagems taking place in American society and elsewhere related to the protection of workers’ health. Revealed repeatedly are successful approaches to changing and improving work organization in order to diminish or eliminate threats to workers’ health. They employ two common elements: they draw on the body of scientific knowledge and rely on principles of collectivity. Underlying these elements is the notion of “balance of power” between workers and managers. It is clear that maintaining an understanding of what is demonstrated in the scientific literature, or at least liaising with people who are abreast of the body of knowledge, is important in achieving positive change. With these powerful tools in hand, numerous successful work organization change interventions have been achieved, using varied approaches. Innovative stratagems tailor the approach used to the nature of the workforce, the workplace, the type of work performed, and the type of labor- management relations and agreements that may exist.

Successful change initiatives described in this section have drawn on the strength and power that exist in collective bargaining agreements, labor-management partnerships, and from participatory action research. What is perhaps the most important message emerging is that strong collective voice is the singularly most important element found among all of the various interventions described. To date, few work organization change initiatives have succeeded in the absence of strong collective voice. Strong laws and regulations are also essential and much needed, but also need to be respected and enforced. During the last 25 years, the United States has witnessed a diminished lack of commitment to existing laws and regulations. Shown throughout this section, laws and regulations alone are not enough to protect workers’ health; other mechanisms are needed to ensure the implementation of statutory laws and regulations.”

Taken from: Schnall PL, Dobson M, Rosskam E, Editors Unhealthy Work: Causes, Consequences, Cures. Baywood Publishing, 2009.

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