Joint management-worker safety committees may be construed as an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), especially if the worker members of a safety committee are selected in a company-wide secret ballot. However, hired agricultural workers, as previously described, are exempt from NLRA jurisdiction, so this would be of concern only to forestry and fishing firms. Moreover, the opinion of a knowledgeable labor attorney, provided on an informal basis and not constituting either legal advice or a legal opinion, indicates that such an election would not normally be considered an unfair labor practice under the NLRA (Joel Levinson, personal communication, May 11, 2007). It would be important to explore this concern further among both management and labor attorneys.
An essential and challenging aspect of NIOSH’s stated mission “to provide national and world leadership to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries” includes the identification of emerging issues and new concerns for worker populations in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. The AFF Program should be at the forefront of efforts to review and define needs in agriculture, forestry, and fishing and should promote opportunities to pursue innovative ways of responding to these needs. The committee notes that the AFF Program has struggled in carrying out that task, and it has provided suggestions for approaching and undertaking such activities. However, the committee concedes that the task is important and warrants more extensive expert input and evaluation than the committee could provide in the context of its review. It hopes that the AFF Program will continue to engage its stakeholders and its advisory council for feedback and guidance.