Promoting Health and Safety in the Workplace

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2010) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today put out a call to all New Yorkers in the workforce to play a role in improving the health and safety of workers. Citing Occupational Health and Awareness Week, April 25-May 1, 2010, Commissioner Daines asked working people to promote, support and acknowledge the importance of health and safety in every place of employment.

"Everyone - employers, unions, other worker advocate organizations and workers themselves – can actively promote a healthy and productive workplace. By committing to providing safe and healthy work, employers can meet their legal requirements, improve productivity, and reduce costs," Dr. Daines said.

Occupational Health Awareness Week is being held this year in conjunction with Workers Memorial Day on Wednesday, April 28, which serves as a nationwide day of remembrance to recognize the thousands of U.S. workers who die and millions more who become disabled each year just doing their jobs. In New York State alone, nearly 250,000 workers each year are reported ill or injured as a result of their work, and in the most recent year reported, more than 220 lost their lives. The tragedy is that workplace illness, injury and death are preventable.

Employers and employees should plan or participate in at least one activity to improve health and safety in the workplace. For example:

Employers should

  • Review laws that apply to your worksites to ensure you are in compliance
  • Work with workforce representatives to develop health & safety programming as needed
  • Invite a site visit from an occupational health expert to make health & safety recommendations
  • Offer medical screenings
  • Host in-house workshops/training sessions for workers, focused on preventing work-related illness and injury
  • Form/Join/Support health & safety committees
  • Host a workplace health & safety fair with demonstrations, displays and more
  • Distribute health & safety information regularly, along with appropriate protective equipment to employees

Employees should

  • Work in a safe manner wearing your appropriate protective equipment
  • Know your rights under state worker compensation laws
  • Form/Join a health and safety committee and communicate with its representatives about workplace concerns and issues
  • Bring to the attention of health & safety committees/employers/coworkers potential worksite hazards needing elimination
  • Participate in medical screenings, trainings, workshops and other activities offered by employers or labor unions
  • Exercise your right to appropriate protective equipment, procedures and training and follow the policies and procedures necessary to prevent injury or illness from these hazards
  • Distribute health and safety information to co-workers
  • Write a letter to a local newspaper/area legislator/policy maker describing in your own words why workplace health and safety is important

Half of workplace illness and injuries result in days away from work. Seventy percent of workplace injury and illness occurs in private industry and 30 percent occurs in state and local government.

The industry with the highest incidence rate of deaths is transportation, with 13.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, followed by construction with eight deaths per 100,000 workers. Of the deaths in 2008:

  • 57 victims were self-employed and 63 victims were wage/salaried workers employed by companies with fewer than 10 employees - a 5 percent increase from 2007
  • Fatal occupational injuries involving Hispanics/Latino workers (33) and Black or African-Americans workers (24) decreased from 2007 levels, while White Non-Hispanic victims increased by 10 percent (192).
  • Fatalities in the farming, fishing and forestry industries increased by 30 percent.
  • Approximately 40 percent of the state's worker fatalities were in New York City, at a rate of 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers.
  • New York was fourth in fatalities from assaults and violent acts, which includes violence by person, self-inflicted injuries and attacks by animals, behind California, Texas and Florida.

Resources are available to help prevent, reduce and treat work-related injuries and illnesses. The New York State Occupational Health Clinic Network (OHCN) 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 (work-related) illnesses.

The OHCN uses 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 Network offers prevention consultation and advice to employees and employee groups, employers, health care professionals and others, partnering with unions, employers and other entities to help identify unsafe conditions, evaluate the risks to workers, and methods to eliminate or reduce the risks. A variety of other organizations and entities both state and nationwide are offering support of the week and occupational health and safety initiatives and education for workers.

Help and support can also be obtained from other organizations, including unions, occupational health and safety groups, professional organizations and immigrant advocate groups.

For more information: