Richard A. Lemen, James P. Keogh Award 2000

photo of James P. Keogh

James P. Keogh, MD

Dr. Richard A. Lemen began his occupational safety and health career in 1970 when he received his commission from the U.S. Public Health Service. He began as an Epidemiologist, later serving as a Section Chief and a Branch Chief. Dr. Lemen also served as Director of the Division of Criteria Documents and Standard Development and the Division of Technical Services before the merge to the Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer. He also spent time as the Acting Director of NIOSH. At the time of his retirement in 1996, he was the Deputy Director of NIOSH.

Dr. Lemen’s most significant contribution may be his pioneering work on asbestos. Early in his career, Dr. Lemen carried out field studies of asbestos workers. His work resulted in journal publications and formed the basis for the NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) of 0.1 fibers/cubic centimeter which was published in the 1976 revised asbestos criteria document. Dr. Lemen testified five times before the U.S. Congress on the workplace hazards of asbestos. Through Dr. Lemen’s research, leadership, and determination, workplace asbestos exposure limits were reduced and in 1986, the OSHA limits were reduced to 0.1 fibers/cubic centimeter. Under Dr. Lemen’s direction, NIOSH produced 26 criteria documents that provided high-quality scientific standard recommendations for the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1988, he directed the largest review of occupational health standards when NIOSH provided scientific recommendations for exposure limits on 626 substances.

Dr. Lemen has also worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) as Chairperson of the Collaborating Centers for Occupational Safety and Health. He initiated and succeeded in gaining adoption of an International Workers Declaration for Health and Safety at Work.

Page last reviewed: October 17, 2011