Labor Day 2013: Statement by NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.

August 29, 2013
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Christina Spring (202) 245-0633

From the moment we wake to the moment we go to bed, we depend on the work of others. Their services are so woven into our daily routine that often we take them for granted.

Labor Day reminds us to recognize these indispensable contributions of our friends, relatives, and fellow Americans at work, and to honor their enterprise and dedication.

On Labor Day 2013, the U.S. workforce is perhaps the most varied in our history. By age, gender, background, and skill-set, it reflects the growing diversity of the larger population and the widening range of industries that drive our economy.

As occupational safety and health professionals, we face a dual challenge in meeting the needs of this 21st Century workforce. While we continue to make progress against the tenacious hazards of traditional workplaces, we also are called to anticipate and address new concerns arising out of ongoing changes in technology, demographics, work organization, and business structure.

In looking ahead to the coming year and beyond, many economists believe that innovation will be the key to economic success. Companies that are flexible in adopting new organizational principles, committed to using new technologies, and willing to seek new markets are likely to be the most profitable and influential. Their success will drive U.S. prosperity.

If such predictions hold true, we occupational safety and health professionals will have great opportunities for informing a new business paradigm that values occupational injury and illness prevention as an investment in growth. We will have great opportunities for engaging new partners in the Total Worker Health strategy that combines workplace health protection with work-based health promotion.

At the same time, we will have to be equally flexible and innovative. We must realize the promise of new communications technologies and social media for disseminating information, especially in reaching workers and small businesses that are difficult to reach through traditional channels. We must be astute in recognizing and addressing the implications of new business strategies and structures for worker stress and health. We must keep pace with new industrial technologies that will surely emerge over the next decade as nanotechnology emerged a decade ago. We must work even harder to move the results of our research into actual practice in the workplace.

Please pause on Labor Day 2013 to reflect on the debt we all owe to America’s working men and women, and consider how you may join with us in our initiatives to better prevent work-related injury, illness, and death.

Page last reviewed: August 29, 2013