The move by public-sector union Unison to consult members in Glasgow comes after a report on the case of foster carer Dawn McKenzie said her death at the hands of a 13-year-old boy placed in her care could be partly blamed on a shortage of resources and a lack of time for workers to make key decisions.
The union said child protection scandals like those involving children Keanu Williams, Hamza Khan and 'Baby P' Peter Connelly could result if overwork among social workers is not addressed.
In a letter to 3400 social work members, Unison's Brian Smith said Glasgow City Council should allocate a realistic time to each task carried out by social workers and bring in limits to ensure workers do not have more cases to monitor than is realistically possible.
A series of consultation meetings next week will assess the mood among members and stewards will ask workers whether they are willing to take industrial action to force the department to introduce a new system.
In a letter to stewards, Unison says: "It is clear that the pressure on members undertaking casework and related activities is increasing and this is leading to stress, worry and illness. It is also leading to a reduced quality of service. It is Unison's view that only a one-day protest strike will convince management to take the matter seriously."
Last week, Glasgow's director of Social Work David Williams emailed social workers, acknowledging the need to address "the workforce challenges that we're currently experiencing", citing in particular the recent wildcat action by housing workers.
More than 100 members of the city's homeless team walked out last month in a dispute partly provoked by increased workloads.
Mr Williams told staff that he was seeking to address areas of concern and revealed an increase of £8million in the February budget to recruit social workers.
But Unison said it was not clear how many posts were being created and added that concerns raised within the homeless service were yet to be addressed.
Mr Smith, Glasgow Branch Secretary, said: "It is clear social work are getting concerned about the resources on the frontline. But they are not managing people's workload properly. There is more demand due to the impact of austerity but that has been exacerbated by the loss of resources and staff."
Mr Smith said a voluntary workload management scheme had been put in place by managers but some were reluctant to use it: "If they had a proper system it would reveal that they need to hire more staff. That is why management is so resistant to doing anything on a compulsory basis."
Ruth Stark, manager of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, backed the call. "Our members are telling us the conditions they are working in are not allowing them time to do the work with people which is going to bring about the changes in their lives."
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "Due to the complexity of service users issues and needs using a time-based workload management system is not a feasible or appropriate method for measuring workloads. We are fully aware of the pressures on some areas of the service and have and are continuing to take steps to address staff concerns.
"We constantly review staff workloads and the levels of support and training that we provide to ensure social work staff are able to continue to deliver the work that they do and prevent them from becoming overburdened."