Labor Day 2014

Posted on by John Howard, M.D.



On Labor Day 2014, we reflect on the ways in which work sustains us as individuals, strengthens our families and communities, and enables our society to function smoothly and productively.  We see this in our daily lives.  On any given morning, as a working parent or caregiver, you may drop your child off at school or daycare, tend to the needs of an elderly mother or father, and drive through traffic to attend a crucial meeting on time.  At work, you put in extra hours to make sure a project is completed on schedule.  Later, you may stop to pick up groceries on the way home, and after dinner you may tackle additional work on the computer before bedtime.

In all, according to government statistics, 146,352,000 men and women are employed in the U.S.   A critical factor in anyone’s ability to do a job well, and to effectively balance often hectic daily routines, is the confidence that workplaces are safe, healthy, and secure.  This holds true whether it is your own workplace or your child’s daycare center, the neighborhood store and its suppliers, or the highway work zone that you pass at rush hour.

We in the occupational safety and health community have the responsibility and privilege of helping to make sure that working people, throughout their careers, enjoy lives free from pain, impairment, and potentially the risk of death associated with job-related injury and illness.  Research of the kind performed and supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and its diverse partners drives informed decision-making and produces new tools and practices to help realize that goal.

Our priorities reflect the realities of today’s working world, which is more diverse, innovative, and globalized than ever before:

  • New technologies enter today’s workplaces at a rapid pace.  Understanding their implications for occupational safety and health is vital for supporting safe, sustainable economic growth.  At the same time, new tools and communication networks offer great promise for faster, more effective identification and management of occupational risks.
  • Perhaps more than ever before in history, working life often is inseparable from life off the job.  Many of us balance crowded, sometimes headache-inducing schedules spanning work and home.  With greater insight into ways in which job-related stress and health may intersect, we can better inform policies that help companies stay productive while supporting a robust and able workforce.  Similarly, partnerships under Total Worker Health™ provide opportunities for addressing workplace health and personal health in totality for better results, rather than considering one in isolation from the other.
  • The world is smaller than ever before, thanks to modern transportation and communications.  As a result, large corporations are spread out across many countries, channels of distribution stretch from factories in China and India to storefronts in your home town, and risks for emerging infectious diseases can travel across borders and oceans with the speed of an airline ticket.  Research is an essential step for addressing the health and safety implications of these aspects of modern business.
  • In contrast to yesterday’s largely homogeneous workforce, today’s workforce is widely varied in age, race, and ethnicity, and is expected to become more so.  There are nearly as many women as men in the U.S. workforce, overall, and in some key professions in the education and medical fields, the proportion of women is far larger than the proportion of men.  This diversity means that we have had to rethink yesterday’s standards for fitting personal protective gear to the worker, and yesterday’s strategies for workplace safety and health training, among other considerations.  This is another function of research.

This Labor Day, I encourage you to reflect on the importance of preventing job-related injury, illness, and death, and to consider ways in which you can support that national mission.

John Howard, M.D.

Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Posted on by John Howard, M.D.

10 comments on “Labor Day 2014”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    On this Labor Day many thanks to those at NIOSH for all you do to assist employers in providing a safe and healthy workplace. As a businessman that helps business owners provide solutions to workplace hazards, I regularly utilize resources provided by CDC and NIOSH. THANK YOU.

    Thank you for your comment and thank you for using our resources. Please call on us anytime for assistance. Thank you for all your efforts to help employers provide a safety and healthy workplace for their employees.

    As a professional out of US, I received many free publications from NIOSH,let alone online free resources that I used every week. Just imagine, without NIOSH, the world will be so different; without NIOSH, we may not be fully confident to our practices. Many thanks to NIOSH, and Americans (who funds NIOSH)!

    Qifu, thank you for your comment about the usefulness of NIOSH science, publications and other resources in your own work.

    It is great to see this more expansive take on occupational health and safety! Dr. Howard’s assessment is spot on– our workforce demographics, and the changing nature of what work/life balance means practically for the health of workers and their families, necessitate a whole host of policy and practice considerations.
    As many other fields and organizations pass these issues around as ‘someone else’s responsibility’, it is heartening to see NIOSH not shying from having a strong voice and presence in taking on these emerging problems as they intersect with safety and health related to the job.

    Thank you, Renee, for your comment. As you say, a “more expansive” role is needed in order to ensure total worker health.

    I think the number one problem with safety training is that workers don’t pay attention to and/or remember anything from safety councils, and just continue in there unsafe routines. I think workers should be trained with hyperbolic training videos that they can’t help but forget. Such as this ridiculous video that Germany for forklift safety: Forklift Safety There’s no way you could forget the safety pointers in this video.

    Also, many thanks to NIOSH for all that you do!

    NIOSH has done very great job in highlighting issues regarding forklift safety. I am hoping that all the measures will be taken for it in future too

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Page last reviewed: December 7, 2016
Page last updated: December 7, 2016