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Labor Day 2019: A Statement by NIOSH Director, John Howard, MD

At NIOSH, we spend every day focused on improving the safety and health of the U.S. workforce who maintain and propel this country forward. This year’s 125th anniversary of Labor Day gives us the opportunity as a Nation to celebrate and appreciate all workers for their contribution to this country’s prosperity, strength and well-being.

This September also marks the recognition of 100 Years of Respiratory Protection, by celebrating the first annual Respiratory Protection Week. Respirators are a critical piece of personal protective equipment for many workers, with an estimated 5 million U.S. workers are required to wear respirators for their jobs. A century ago, the U.S. Department of Mines initiated the first respirator certification program in the United States. Today, NIOSH’s National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory carries out research, testing, and related activities aimed at protecting workers through personal protective equipment.

As we reflect on the contributions of workers and the work conducted to protect them from exposures and hazards, we also look towards what the future may hold and how we will continue to ensure improved worker safety, health, and well-being outcomes. To do so, this year we established the NIOSH Future of Work Initiative in response to the rapidly changing nature of workplace and work issues experienced by today and tomorrow’s workforce. Swift and advanced innovations in technology, automation, and globalization demand a collaborative, forward-thinking approach. To better understand and address these issues, we have created workgroups and centers throughout NIOSH to work together and with external partners and stakeholders to develop a framework for addressing the future of work. Framed by a Total Worker Health approach, this initiative promotes the well-being of workers, their families, and communities by encouraging an integrated, multidisciplinary perspective.

The new NIOSH Future of Work Initiative will coordinate activities related to the changing nature of work carried out by several NIOSH programs.

The goals of the NIOSH Future of Work Initiative are to:

  • Compile studies on the future of work;
  • Feature current research projects related to the Initiative;
  • Promote research among new industries, technologies, organizational designs, job arrangements, risk profiles, and ways to control risks; and
  • Connect trends in workplace, work, and workforce changes to prepare for what the future holds for occupational safety and health.

While we may not always anticipate every change, we can consistently do our best to take proactive steps to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of the workforce. Join us in celebrating U.S. workers nationwide by looking for ways we can all work together to promote safety and health at work and beyond.