New York Spearheads First Occupational Health Awareness Week

The nation's first Occupational Health Awareness (OHA) Week is just around the corner. Thanks to the efforts of a unique state-supported network of occupational health centers working closely with workers, labor organizations, health and safety advocates, local agencies, and legislators in New York state, the event is taking place April 25 to May 1. The goal of the week is to increase awareness of the need for healthy workplaces and a reduction in work-related death and disability.

Each year millions of workers are disabled and thousands more lose their lives as a result of job-related injuries and illnesses in the United States. In New York state alone, nearly 280,000 workers each year are reported to become ill or injured as a result of their work, and more than 220 lose their lives. The tragedy, note OHA planners, is that workplace-related illness and injury are generally preventable.

OHA Week founders, the New York state Occupational Health Clinics Network (OHCN), supported by the NYS AFL-CIO, NYCOSH, and state legislators, among others, see OHA Week as a special opportunity to promote, support, and acknowledge the importance and benefits of worker health and safety in every workplace, every single day of the year. Encouraging occupational health & safety education and prevention initiatives, they urge employers, workers, organizations, and policymakers 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, policymakers, advocate organizations, and workers themselves can take an active role in promoting a healthy and productive workplace, organizers note. With a legal responsibility to protect their workforce, employers also can reduce worker's compensation and related costs and improve productivity by committing to providing safe and healthy work.

Enhancing the week's impact, OHA Week is being held in conjunction with Workers Memorial Day, April 28, which traditionally serves as a nationwide day of remembrance to recognize U.S. workers who die and become disabled each year on the job. OHA Week supporters want to honor all those who have died, become disabled, or lost a loved one on the job by doing what they can to help make sure workers return safely home to their families each and every day.

The Occupational Health Clinic Network is the nation's only state-based occupational health clinic network and is comprised of 11 regionally based clinical centers, including one with a specific focus on agricultural medicine. The network was created in 1987 to offer specialized medical diagnoses, high-quality care, and support services for workers with occupational illnesses. Its member centers of excellence use multidisciplinary teams of physicians, industrial hygienists, health educators, and social workers working closely with workers, labor organizations, employers, and others to help prevent, diagnose, and treat work-related illness and injury. The OHCN offers prevention consultation and advice to employees and employee groups, employers, health care professionals, and others, partnering with unions and employers to help identify unsafe conditions, evaluate the risks to workers, and methods to eliminate or reduce the risks.

Also offering support of the week and ongoing occupational health and safety initiatives for workers state and nationwide are the NYS AFL-CIO and other unions, COSH groups, professional organizations, immigrant advocate groups, government agencies, and legislators.

To join in supporting OHA Week and share with others how you may be able to participate, e-mail your name, organization, and a description of your activity to OHAweek@yahoo.com. For more information on ways to participate and to get help, if needed, check out http://ohaweek.groupsite.com/main/summary.

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