Each year, millions of U.S. workers are disabled and thousands lose their lives as a result of job-related injuries and illnesses. In New York State alone, over 240,000 workers each year become ill or injured as a result of their work, and over 180 lose their lives. The tragedy, according to New York-based organizers of the nation’s 2nd Annual Occupational Health Awareness (OHA) Week, is only magnified by the fact that workplace-related illness and injury are often preventable.
Hoping to help prevent death and disability on the job by raising awareness about the importance of workplace health & safety, OHA Week founders from the New York State Occupational Health Clinic Network this week announced dates for this year’s commemoration, to extend from April 27th through May 4th, 2011. Begun by the Network as an annual awareness day in 2002, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the event has expanded its efforts slowly but surely each year with the support of government agencies, health & safety, labor and community organizations nationwide. In New York, the principal sponsors of what is now a week-long initiative, encompassing Worker Memorial Day (April 28), include the NYS AFL-CIO and the state’s Committees for Occupational Safety & Health: NYCOSH, CYNCOSH and WNYCOSH. Other supporters include the New York State Department of Health, State Assemblyman Rory Lancman, State Assemblyman Keith Wright and other state, local and federal legislators and entities.
Organizers are promoting the initiative as a special opportunity to highlight, support and acknowledge the importance and benefits of worker health and safety in every workplace – and not only during OHA Week, but every single day of the year, not unlike the Network’s own mission. Unique in the country as the first state-supported consortium of occupational medicine providers, the Network includes 11 clinical centers of excellence specializing in the prevention and care of occupational illness and disease year–round. In addition to specialized clinical and preventive services and care, Network members have been active in inter-collaborative initiatives with entities and government agencies across the state and nation, often called to serve as public policy advisors to legislators, government and other public and private agencies across the United States and beyond.
Encouraging the expansion of occupational health & safety education and prevention initiatives state and nationwide, OHA Week organizers urge employers, workers, organizations and policy makers to “TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE!” of OHA Week — by planning or participating in activities and actions marking a new or renewed commitment to the health and safety of workers. Employers as well as unions, policy makers, advocate organizations, and workers themselves, can take an active role in promoting a healthy and productive workplace. With a legal responsibility to protect their workforce, employers can also reduce workers’ compensation and related costs and improve productivity by committing to providing safe and healthy work.