NIOSH Workers Memorial Day 2006: Statement by NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.
Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
April 27, 2006
Work-related fatalities and injuries are not an inevitable cost of doing business. As Workers Memorial Day gives pause for remembering and honoring men and women who have been killed and injured on the job, it also reminds us that occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths can be prevented.
Thirty-five years ago, the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reflected a national determination to ensure safe and healthful workplaces for all men and women who draw paychecks. The same spirit led NIOSH and its partners to unveil the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) in 1996, at a time when the challenges facing all of us were growing more complex and demanding. Historically, NORA offered the first national blueprint ever for designing and stimulating research that would do the most to reduce the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
We are proud that NORA has led to many advancements in research, and to new avenues for translating those findings into practical, effective interventions in a wide range of workplaces, from hospitals and construction sites to farm fields and mines, to name a few. These advancements mean that working men and women are saved from painful, costly, and potentially disabling or fatal injuries and illnesses. In the broader view as well, all of us benefit in some way from these innovations that have helped to make businesses safer, more productive, more secure, and more efficient.
As recent headlines demonstrate, an urgent need remains for strong, results-driven safety and health research. Critical problems persist in many traditional industries, as demonstrated by the tragic West Virginia coal mine disasters earlier this year. At the same time, the emerging economy of the 21st Century brings a host of new concerns, as illustrated by the current national dialogue on the occupational safety and health implications of nanotechnology. NORA enters its second decade this year, rededicated and reinvigorated to address the needs of the next 10 years. We will continue to work diligently with our partners and stakeholders to design and conduct research that makes a real difference in the workplace.