Labor Day, 2021: Statement by John Howard, M.D., Director, NIOSH
September 3, 2021
Every year, we recognize the first Monday of September as Labor Day. Created in the late 19th century, it’s a day celebrated by Americans to recognize and pay tribute to those who labored to build America.
At NIOSH, we continually strive to provide advances in worker safety and health. This year, we are proud to be celebrating our 50th anniversary. A milestone like this provided us the opportunity look back at our contributions to worker safety and health issues over the course of the last five decades. This Labor Day as we reflect on past efforts taken to establish safe work environments, we can’t help but think about how current health hazard events will influence future working conditions and how NIOSH can be better prepared to address future challenges.
Changing weather is one factor influencing the future of worker safety and health. Extreme weather events or natural disasters such as heat waves, droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires all have an impact on workplace conditions for both indoor and outdoor workers.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this past July was the hottest month on record. Trends of hotter temperatures are likely to continue and become more frequent. Workers exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments indoors or outdoors, may be at an increased risk for heat-related illnesses. Working in hot or humid environments can also present challenges for workers required to wear personal protective equipment. And, record-breaking wildfire seasons also present a major health hazard to not only wildland firefighters, but outdoor workers who may be exposed to wildfire smoke. To that end, NIOSH convened a working group on climate change that will set the future course on our climate-related activities, research, and information to protect workers.
Over the past year, the country saw a high demand for and limited supply of N95 filtering facepiece respirators. To prepare for the future, NIOSH is exploring the application of novel and emerging technologies to respiratory protection and options to make effective respiratory protection available where it is needed most. We will continue to push forward the state of science related to personal protective equipment to keep our nation’s workers safe.
As we look towards the future, we will continue to carry out our mission of improving worker safety and health like we have done over the last five decades. On this Labor Day we honor the workers of today and tomorrow by committing to address workplace safety and health issues for the next five decades and beyond.