What is a COSH Group?
A COSH is an organization dedicated to advancing the rights of workers related to health and safety issues. COSH groups are typically non-profit organizations. New COSH activity might begin as a committee affiliated with an existing COSH or with the National COSH Network.
Who belongs to COSH Groups?
COSH groups are usually made up of union health and safety activists, health and safety professionals, attorneys, educators, worker centers or other grass roots activists. Some COSH groups have been active for 35 years while others have been established recently.
Who endorses COSH Groups?
A wide network in the Health and Safety community endorses COSH groups. These include:
Labor Movement – COSH groups have worked closely with both national and local unions throughout the last decades on legislative and education campaigns.
Immigrant Rights Organizations – COSH groups have been instrumental in supporting education and support for health and safety in many languages and many employment situations.
Families Organizations – COSH groups work with families who have lost loved ones in workplace tragedies and advocate for stronger health and safety protections for everyone.
Environmental Organizations – COSH groups collaborate with environmental organizations and environmental justice coalitions in several states and have been prominent in blue-green initiatives and alliances.
Who runs a COSH?
COSH groups are usually created as volunteer organizations and often progress to include paid staff positions. Activists interested in establishing a COSH group usually begin by meeting on a regular basis to plan activities, such as educational programs, legislative campaigns or annual Worker Memorial Day events. A Board of Directors typically serves as the governing body. COSH groups with financial support from memberships, service fees, contributions and/or grants often hire staff to oversee the operations of the organization although some groups function as a volunteer committee.
What do COSH groups do?
COSH groups organize, educate and mobilize workers to promote workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace. A safe work environment is a basic human right. COSH groups are on the forefront, fighting for all workers – nationally and locally. The National COSH website gives additional information on current activities and links to most local COSH websites.
What type of assistance is there to start a new COSH?
The National COSH Network has designed a new project, GROW COSH, to promote and nurture the start of new COSH groups. A National COSH representative is available to assist starting a new COSH group, which includes identifying potential financial resources.
Who might be part of a New COSH groups?
Worker advocates, union activists, and health and safety professionals are usually the core groups connected with COSH groups. Some interested groups include:
- Family members who have lost loved ones in a workplace fatality incident
- Health and safety professionals and experts dedicated to organizing for workers rights
- Union leaders and members who serve on health and safety committees
- Attorneys who represent workers in workers compensation cases or third-party lawsuits
- Labor educators who have a special interest in worker health and safety
- Religious organizations with social concerns committees or other groups focused on social justice issue
- Workers’ centers that assist low-wage workers and others to fight for their rights
- Injured workers who have experienced suffering from health and safety hazards
- Anyone who is interested in being part of an organization to help workers fight for health and safety rights.
“COSH groups help all workers fight for safe jobs and we need to have more of them in all areas of the country,” notes Peg Seminario of the AFL-CIO Health and Safety Department.
“Whether you’re a construction worker, a service worker or a temporary worker, COSH groups can help bring the resources together to protect your health and safety rights,” said Eric Frumin of the Change to Win National Health and Safety Department.
What do I need to get started to organize a new COSH Group?
- Identify a list of possible contacts that might be interested in starting a new Worker Health and Safety Activist Group [COSH].
- Plan an activity, such as:
- Worker Memorial Day (April 28 of each year) memorializes workers killed on the job and reminds us all to fight for all workers' rights in health and safety. COSH groups usually join other groups (like unions) to plan and implement these activities or organize these events themselves.
- Participate in community education event.
What are the additional resources I need to get started?
Internet resources include:
- Federal OSHA (Identify if your area is under the federal or state OSHA plan)
- Identify the most hazardous worksites in your proposed service area. (Much of this information is available through OSHA's searchable database on its website.)
- Determine the effectiveness of your state's workers' compensation law. The AFL-CIO's Health and Safety Department has an excellent publication called "Death on the Job," which compares worker health and safety protections in all 50 states. A summary is available on its website or you may download the full report. See its website for details.
How do I get help?
The National COSH Network is eager to help guide you along the steps to get groups started and active. Email Peter Dooley firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-320-5160 for assistance.