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Reviewed by:
  • Tools of the Trade: A Health and Safety Handbook for Action
  • Laurel Kincl
Tools of the Trade: A Health and Safety Handbook for Action. By Pamela Tau Lee, Robin Baker, and Gene Darling . Berkeley, CA: Labor Occupational Health Program, University of California, 2006. 174 pp. $25 paper.

The first chapter of Tools of the Trade says it all. Worker health and safety is a key issue for unions to embrace, not only for the obvious reason—to protect workers and keep them healthy—but also as a way to energize labor and community groups. Given the current climate that surrounds unions and organizing, this book identifies all of the advantages for unions to consider running a worker safety and health campaign: health and safety issues can build both worker and community support; a wide range of potential issues can appeal to the ever-diversifying workforce; health and safety campaigns can promote participation and develop leadership; and finally, when victorious, it can give workers' rights a boost. The tools presented in the handbook—from methods of collecting health and safety information to ideas for turning it into action—are comprehensive, practical, and relevant.

Up front, the reader is invited to actively select what tools might be effective in particular situations, using a worksheet that lists the topics covered in the handbook. This immediately gets the reader involved. After this starting point, the tools are laid out in an easy-to-use manner with action-oriented approaches and simple how-to instructions. Each tool is rounded out with tips for success and great examples of how the tools have been used to promote safer working conditions. These tales from the front line contain powerful [End Page 88] messages of what is possible with organizing around the health and safety issues that are facing workers. If you have some lingering health and safety issues in your workplace and these do not inspire your own health and safety campaign, little else will.

One important aspect of the handbook is how it provides advice on technical topics, such as using workers' right to know. The authors have taken great care in making such topics less overwhelming and therefore possible to actually take on. Finally, the sample tools presented in this book are well established in the occupational safety and health world and have been used in a wide variety of occupations. They are practical, user friendly and should be easy for workers with a variety of educational backgrounds and experience to understand and implement in the workplace. Ranging from body maps and health surveys to checklists for an OSHA complaint or for identifying bargaining priorities, this handbook truly has everything. Not only are samples of the tools presented, but perhaps even more important, also a discussion on what to do with the information.

Overall, Tools of the Trade is an exceptional resource and timely. It follows in the direction of work such as the ILO's 2002 "Barefoot Research" but provides additional information and is more applicable for US-based efforts. The handbook could be used as a reference for instructors of non-credit classes. The sample materials incl uded in the handbook could be copied for use in exercises to demonstrate effective means of including workers in their health and safety. Finally, it is a handbook that every safety steward should have and be familiar with. The Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) has compiled a great resource for helping labor organize around worker health and safety. Hopefully this handbook will be put to good use.

Laurel Kincl
University of Oregon


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 88-89
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2007
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