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Starting a COSH Group

Starting a COSH Group

No COSH group in your area? Start your own!!
Here’s some suggestions on how to get started:

  • Don’treinvent the wheel! Many others have gone through the difficult experience of starting a COSH organization and can save you a huge amount of time and effort by sharing their experiences and resources. Contact the National COSH Network Coordinator or one of the COSH groups listed on the above pages to get started gathering ideas.
  • Plan to start small. Getting a low-budget non-profit organization off the ground is a challenging task. Don’texpect to build a large, financially stable organization in a matter of months.
  • Contact union locals in your area, share your idea with them, and ask them to send a representative to an initial planning meeting. If you aren’tsure where to find them, you can start by contacting the health and safety departments of some international unions, who could put you in touch with local contacts. Some of the internationals that have active health and safety departments are: the UAW, UFCW, , UNITE/HERE!, AFSCME, Steelworkers, Machinists, CWA, APWU, Teamsters, PACE, and others.
  • Contact health and technical professionals who are interested in worker health and safety. You may try making contact with a local public health school, with a local chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers, or contact the Occupational Safety and Health section of the American Public Health Association to look for members in your area.
  • Reach out to progressive organizations that work with groups of particularly vulnerable workers, such as immigrants or day laborers—people who are often most exploited and most likely to suffer from unsafe working conditions.
  • Start building a Board of Directors. In order to incorporate your organization and be legally able to raise funds, you will need a Board of Directors. Many states have a Non-Profit Center that can give you guidance on this process.
  • Start building a dues-paying membership. Most COSH groups get the majority of their funding from grants—either state or federal grant programs or foundation grants. But the only way you can get in the running for one of these grants is to build a constituency and build a membership. You need to demonstrate to grantors that there are people out there who care about your cause and believe in your organization. This means making a commitment of some money, however small an amount.
  • Identify key worker health and safety issues in your area. If you are thinking about starting a COSH group, you probably have some ideas already about what these issues are. But bring together other folks in your community—representatives of a variety of unions and community groups, as well as health and technical professionals– to get their input on the key issues. Every community is different and every COSH group has a different agenda.
  • Educate yourself on your community/your state’s OSH situation. Are you under federal OSHA jurisdiction or under a state OSHA plan? Where are the most hazardous worksites in your proposed service area? (Much of this information is available through OSHA’s searchable database on its website.) How effective is your state’s workers’ compensation law? The AFL-CIO’s Health and Safety Department has an excellent publication called Death on the Job that compares worker health and safety protections in all 50 states.