Issues / Legislation

Health & Safety Training Program

Safe working conditions are a major priority for AFSCME. You have a right to go to work in the morning and return in the same condition you left. AFSCME members are exposed to many serious hazards, more than any other workforce. Chemicals, back injuries, workplace violence, confined spaces, speeding traffic, trench collapses, machinery hazards, infectious diseases and a variety of other workplace hazards kill, injure, sicken and maim thousands of members every year. And many AFSCME members face these hazards doing jobs that most Americans don’t even want to think about.

Yet in spite of the work they do and the hazards they face, public employees in 27 states are not covered by federally approved OSHA laws. Even where they are covered by OSHA, many of the hazards that public employees and health care workers face are not regulated: workplace violence, most infectious diseases, repetitive strain, back injuries, indoor air quality -- none of these have OSHA regulations that define what is "safe."

On top of this, the enemies of working people are attacking our right to a safe workplace. Using phrases like "cost effectiveness," "regulatory reform," "competitiveness," and "unfunded mandates," they attack the laws and safeguards that protect us, and threaten to privatize our jobs if we complain about our working conditions.

AFSCME has responded to these threats against our health and our lives with an active, aggressive health and safety program. Staffed by full time health and safety professionals, supported by AFSCME’s legislative, communications, legal, research and collective bargaining and political action departments, and assisted by physicians and outside experts, AFSCME has put together an effective program to defend your health and safety. We conduct training, provide on-site technical and bargaining assistance for affiliates, produce publications aimed at members and staff, and work in Washington D.C. and in the state capitals to defend and expand your rights.

But the most important element in making your workplace safe is YOU: the thousands of active, informed local union activists and members of health and safety committees who organize to fight these day-to-day battles in workplaces across the country. Only with your support are we able to urge the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue the legal protections that we need, and to fight successful battles in Washington D.C. to defend and expands your rights.

Education and Training

Health and safety training can mean the difference between life and death. AFSCME runs one of the most active union training programs in the country, training thousands of AFSCME members and staff every year. We do this through:

The AFSCME health and safety staff provides training programs on a variety of health and safety issues. Below is a sampling of the courses we offer. If you are interested in a topic you do not see here, we may be able to design one to meet your needs.

Hazard Communication – 4 hours

This four-hour class provides information on hazardous chemicals found in the workplace, methods to detect a release, physical and health hazards, protective measures, labeling requirements, material safety data sheets, and a detailed overview of the required elements of an employer's hazard communication program.

Infectious Diseases

This two-hour program covers the difference between virus and bacteria, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, H1N1, and universal/standard precautious.

Hazard Communication Train-the-Trainer program – 40 hours

This 5-day train–the–trainer program prepares a group of workers to master the technical knowledge and training skills needed to provide high quality and cost-effective training in Hazard Communication.  (Limited to 20 students.)

First on the Scene – Eight-Hour Awareness Level Training

This training is designed for employees who are likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release.  The program meets the requirements of the OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (29 CFR 1910.120). 

Confined Spaces Awareness – 4 hours

This program meets the training requirements of OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Spaces Standard (29 CFR 1910.146) for employees who enter a confined space.

Trenching and Excavation – 4 hours

This program includes an overview of OSHA’s excavation requirements (29 CFR 1926.651), safe entry and exit, hazardous atmospheres, soil classification, and requirements for protective systems.

Chemical Hazard Communication/Hazardous Waste/Emergency Response

This class includes information on chemical properties, health hazards, proper storage and handling, and steps to take in case of an emergency spill (awareness level). Also included is information on Global Harmonization and the anticipated revisions to the hazard communication (Right-to-Know) standard.

Emergency Preparedness

The topics in this course include types of emergencies, performing inspections, performing drills, workplace violence and bomb threats and pandemic flu planning. The main activity in the class is a mock vulnerability task analysis.

Health and Safety Committee Training (for both local unions and labor-management)

This training includes hazard identification techniques and control measures (hierarchy of controls). Many activities, including risk mapping and body mapping are included in the program.

Safety and Health for the Local Union Steward

This workshop includes basic information, such as “OSHA 101,” gathering information and surveys, hazard communication and infectious disease basics, emergency preparedness, contract language and writing an effective grievance. Activities include reviewing specific contract language, risk mapping and vulnerability analysis.

Incident Investigation

This is a high level class, usually an add-on to the committee training. It focuses on systems and root cause analysis, how to effectively use rank and file workers in the investigation process.


Ergonomics is the art and science of fitting the job and the workplace to the worker. Risk factors for injury, body mapping and task analysis to help make changes to the workplace are the focus of this training.

Introduction to Workers’ Compensation

This is a basic program on how workers’ compensation works, light duty assignments and an overview of specific state requirements. No legal advice is given, but information on AFSCME Advantage Legal Services program is included.

Hazards of Working Outdoors

Working outside presents many unique hazards. This workshop covers heat and cold stress, sun exposure, illnesses related to plants, insects and animals.

Introduction to Hazardous Drugs

This workshop, specifically designed for health care workers, (from nurses to environmental services) includes the health effects of chemotherapy and other hazardous drugs. It also covers information on engineering, work practice and personal protective equipment control measures.

Workplace Violence

This program helps employees identify procedures and guidelines that address occurrences of workplace violence and threats of violence between employees that may adversely affect job performance, morale, productivity, and patient care.

American Red First Aid/CPR/AED

This class provides workers with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent, recognize, and provide basic care for injuries and sudden illnesses until advanced medical personnel arrive and take over. This course covers first aid, adult CPR and AED training. First Aid and CPR training without the AED module is also available.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

This workshop discusses how to use a systems approach to health and safety, hazards identification, using the hierarchy of controls, and using health and safety committees.

Indoor Air Quality

This program discusses the causes of poor indoor air quality and what can be done to identify and correct IAQ problems in the workplace. 

Mold Awareness

Mold is one of the biggest environmental issues employees, facility and property manager’s face today. The 4-hour mold awareness-training course is designed to assist employees in developing an active response program for water and mold-related incidences. Students will learn and discuss the myths, misinformation and facts associated with mold. They will also learn about the interpretation of data, standard of care guidelines, employ mold prevention strategies and investigative protocols when microbial contamination is suspected.

Asbestos Control Program

For employees who are exposed to asbestos fibers in the workplace, initial monitoring for asbestos exposure is required. If the monitoring results are above the permissible exposure limit (PEL), an asbestos control program is required. Program elements include regulated areas, exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and records maintenance, engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and training.

Personal Protective Equipment Hazard Assessment

This program helps workers assess their workplaces to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which would require the use of personal protective equipment (eye/face, head, foot, or hand protection).

Confined Space Entry Program

Employees who are required to enter a confined space that contains or has the potential to contain an atmospheric or physical hazard will receive 8 to 12 hours of training. Primary elements of the program are identification of applicable confined spaces, testing/ monitoring, control or elimination of hazards, protective equipment, specific written entry authorization, attendants, training, and rescue.

Green Cleaning

This program goes beyond chemical and equipment choices. It includes policies, procedures, and training and shared responsibility efforts that minimize the impact of cleaning materials on the health of building occupants and protects the environment.

For more information on training, contact AFSCME Department of Research and Collective Bargaining Services, 1625 L Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-5687.  You can also call the health and safety staff at 202-429-1217 or e-mail them at