Article 22: Health and Safety

Section 1

The Employer will provide and maintain safe working conditions for all employees in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) (Public Law 91-596) and implementing regulations, and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

Section 2

A. In accordance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations regarding health and safety, the Employer will:

• assure compliance with all applicable OSHA standards, implementing regulations, and related rules and regulations;

• investigate reports of unhealthy or unsafe working conditions;

• provide appropriate and adequate health and safety training for employees as determined by the Employer;

• conduct health and safety inspections of each of the Employer's facilities by third parties at least annually, and provide NTEU with the final results;

• conduct a fire drill at least annually at each of the Employer's facilities; and

• comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations regarding health and safety for mail handling, including those governing the use of x-ray machines and limiting radiation exposure of employees to recognized safety levels, and install dosimeters or similar equipment to measure radiation exposure.

B. NTEU agrees to promptly notify the Employer of any safety and health concerns or possible compliance problems. NTEU maintains its right to directly contact appropriate public officials and organizations (e.g., OSHA) with respect to any safety or health concerns or possible compliance problems provided that the NTEU: (a) does not interfere with the Employer's efforts to correct any known health and safety concern, and (b) the NTEU promptly provides the Employer all of the same information it provided to the aforementioned public officials and organizations.

C. The Union may request to schedule and arrange an additional health and/or safety inspection of a Division/Office/Regional Office. The Union will provide reasonable notice to the Employer and will bear all costs and   expenses of the inspection. The Employer will not unreasonably deny such requests.

Section 3

A. The Employer will take appropriate action to ensure that employees are familiar with the proper means of leaving the building during a suspected fire, bomb threat or other emergency. Where a fire, bomb threat or other emergency in the building is reasonably suspected, the Employer will evacuate affected employees to safer areas. Under no circumstances will the Employer require an employee to remain at their workstation to search for a suspected bomb.

B. The Employer shall provide emergency evacuation plans for its various locations covering the provisions for evacuating disabled employees (including any assistance animals) and assisting disabled employees if they must wait in a designated area before being evacuated. Employer facilities will be equipped with alarms that will assist deaf or hard of hearing employees. This includes open areas, hallways, and individual offices of eligible employees. The Employer also will provide appropriate signage for visually impaired employees.

Section 4

A. An employee should notify the Employer of any health and safety concerns observed in the workplace. An employee will not be subject to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination or reprisal for reporting an unsafe or unhealthful working condition. An employee who believes they have been subject to an act or acts of reprisal for reporting unsafe or unhealthful working conditions has the right to seek redress through established grievance procedures in Article 32 of this Agreement.

B. An employee will notify the Employer, by the most expeditious means available, of situations at the employee's workplace where there appears to be imminent danger. The term "imminent danger" means any conditions or practices in any of the Employer's facilities that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or within such a short time that emergency steps must be taken. In such a situation, the employee will remove themselves from the dangerous location or cease to perform the dangerous task as directed by the Employer. If the situation does not allow for prior notification to the Employer, the employee should remove themselves from the dangerous location or cease to perform the dangerous task, notify the Employer as soon as possible, and make themselves available for work as reasonably directed by the Employer.

C. If the Employer or another Federal agency with appropriate jurisdiction determines there are significant unhealthy or unsafe working conditions present at a facility such that employees are precluded from reporting to work at that facility, the Employer and the Union shall commence bargaining regarding temporary working arrangements pending return to the original facility or identification of an alternate facility. The Employer may direct employees to report to a temporary work site and/or permit or direct employees to telework while bargaining is ongoing. Absent unusual circumstances, such relocation shall not affect employees' regular work schedules. The Parties agree to suspend those provisions of this Agreement that would impede the rapid or temporary relocation of affected employees under these circumstances. The Employer will grant excused absence to affected employees in appropriate circumstances, including when the Employer or the employee is unable to provide an alternative work site.

Section 5

When the Employer is informed that an employee has sustained an "on-the-job" injury, the Employer will inform the employee of the procedures for filing a claim for benefits under the Federal Employees Compensation Act. The employee must report the injury to their supervisor or designated official in the Office of Human Resources. Upon request, the Employer will provide the employee all necessary forms. If because of their injury, the employee is unable to complete the necessary forms, the Employer will provide appropriate assistance.

Section 6

A. The Employer will provide employees with access to a health facility for the treatment of minor injuries and conditions, the assessment of more serious conditions, and to assist emergency personnel with life threatening conditions.

B. The Employer will offer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid training, including retraining, to employees if the scheduling of such training does not conflict with Employer’s staffing, workload, and mission accomplishment, and is within budgetary constraints. The Employer will publish the names of those employees who are trained in CPR techniques, and who are willing to have their names published, on the Employer's   electronic bulletin board. No employee, however, will be required to provide CPR or first aid assistance.

Section 7

To the extent possible, the Employer will continue to arrange for or to provide flu shots and certain health screenings, including, but not limited to, those health screenings currently provided.

Section 8

The Employer and the Union agree to discuss and address issues related to health and safety at meetings of the Labor-Management Relations Committee established pursuant to Article 41 of this Agreement. These issues will include, but not be limited to, accidents that have occurred and any revisions to regulations or policies relating to health and safety.

Section 9

A. The Employer will provide the Union with a list of hazardous chemicals that are used ordinarily in its facilities in accordance with applicable OSHA regulations. The Employer will promptly notify the Union of additions to this list.

B. To the extent possible, the Employer will notify the Union and affected employees at least forty-eight (48) hours before these or any other hazardous chemicals are to be used in its facilities.

Section 10

If an employee is injured while in travel status or at a temporary duty station, the Employer will to the extent possible and if requested:

• assist the employee in obtaining immediate medical assistance;

• assist the employee in obtaining transportation to the nearest medical facility;

• approve sick leave and per diem in accordance with applicable laws, rules and regulations; and

• contact the employee's designated emergency contact.

Section 11

The Employer will inform employees of the safety procedures and requirements at all of its facilities. Employees who intentionally disrupt, interfere with, or fail   to cooperate with these procedures, thereby jeopardizing the safety of others, may be subject to administrative action.

Section 12

A. The Employer will offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), cost-free to employees, to help employees effectively address and overcome problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, work and family pressures, and job stress which can adversely affect performance, conduct, reliability, and personal health.

B. An employee with job performance problems, who is offered EAP services, bears the responsibility for returning their performance to an acceptable level and maintaining it at that level regardless of whether they use the Program. An employee with conduct or reliability issues who is offered EAP services bears the responsibility for similarly resolving their issues regardless of whether they use the Program.

C. When using EAP services, an employee's privacy is protected by confidentiality laws and regulations and by professional ethical standards for counselors. Consistent with these laws, regulations, and standards, the details of an employee's discussions with a counselor may not be released to anyone, including the Employer, without the employee's written consent.

D. The employee will request approval from their supervisor to meet with an EAP counselor during duty time. Generally, the Employer will grant such requests. However, under extraordinary circumstances, the Employer may ask the employee to schedule the meeting at a different time. The Employer and any other party involved will treat requests for meetings with EAP counselors as confidential.

E. An employee's job security or promotion opportunities will not be jeopardized by a request for counseling or referral assistance through the EAP except as limited by applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

F. When conducting an interview or counseling session with an employee who appears to be experiencing problems covered in this Section, the Employer should focus on the employee’s work performance or conduct related problems and advise the employee regarding available counseling.  

Section 13

A. Employees are encouraged to take advantage of fitness programs. During orientation, the Employer will inform new employees of the availability of fitness programs.

B. Subject to budgetary constraints and space limitations, the Employer will provide, and will continue to provide wellness programs, such as lunchtime speakers and certain fitness screenings, periodically for employees. If the Employer establishes new fitness centers, the Union will be given an opportunity to bargain as appropriate in accordance with Article 6 (Mid-term Bargaining) of this Agreement.

Section 14

Subject to budgetary constraints, the Employer will maintain its current practice regarding the provision of appropriate equipment to employees designed to eliminate eyestrain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and related health concerns.

Section 15

The agency will make reasonable efforts to address the needs of nursing mothers at each of its facilities by making available appropriate private space suitable for their use and by reasonably accommodating requests to schedule breaks during the work day necessary for lactation related purposes. If a specific room is not available, arrangements will be made for nursing mothers to use a vacant private room or conference room, with a locking door.

Section 16

As funding allows, whenever HQ and regional offices move to a new location, the Agency will provide a sit-stand desk for all employee office work spaces at the new location.

Section 17

To promote employee wellness, the SEC will reimburse each employee up to $1,000 per year to cover expenses for any programs which contribute to employee health and wellness, such as yoga and/or meditation classes, and/or fitness expenses (e.g., gym memberships, trainer costs, athletic equipment like treadmills, bicycles, weights, running/walking sneakers, etc.). The Wellness Benefit Program is a voluntary program that allows the SEC to make an annual payment of $1,000 to eligible employees to assist with expenses related to their continuing health and fitness expenses. These payments are considered supplemental wages; therefore, tax withholdings will apply and the payments will be included in employees’ annual W-2 statements under wages, tips, other compensation.

Section 18

Within ninety days of the effective date of this Agreement, the parties will establish a Joint Working Group that will explore ideas on how the Agency can best support employees through the process of adoption, surrogacy, and infertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization procedures. Within nine (9) months of its establishment, the Joint Working Group will provide recommendations on the matter.