Today's NewsAfter 34 years as Executive Director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), safety activist Joel Shufro is retiring.

Shufro has headed up the organization for most of its 31-year history, growing it into a membership encompassing approximately 200 local unions and 300 individuals. Most individual members are legal and medical professionals; academics; and rank-and-file workers.

In a letter to NYCOSH members, Shufro said that it’s time for new leadership.

“For me, working at NYCOSH has been a labor of love,” Shufro wrote. What we have achieved has been a collective effort. I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by a talented, passionate, committed and dedicated staff. Our Board of Directors has provided valuable leadership helping us stay true to our mission and remain financially sound during some extraordinarily difficult times. The labor movement, which has been the base of our support, has come to our defense in our hour of need, and yet appreciated and embraced our need for independence. And a safety and health community in New York and throughout the country has allowed us to build broad-based support for safety and health initiatives.”

Putting profit before health

He said NYCOSH has fought against employers “who have placed profit before human health” and challenged corporations that have consciously and willfully exposed workers and the public to substances which they know to be toxic and withheld information about the consequences of exposure.

“We have worked to prevent businesses which sicken, injure, and kill workers from shifting the cost to the public and we have sought to hold them accountable. We brought to public attention the hazardous conditions under which labor those most vulnerable to exploitation: women, youth, people of color, and immigrants. We have provided training and technical assistance to tens of thousands of workers, union representatives and community- based organizations - training which was designed to help them to organize to fight for and win their rights to safe and healthful workplaces.”

There's still work to be done

Among the issues which Shufro said remain to be effectively addressed: standards to protect workers from silica, diesel exhaust, ergonomic hazards and infectious diseases and new occupational health issues such as fracking, climate change, nano-particles, workplace and especially gun violence – “all of which have dramatic and immediate consequences for workers' health.”

Shufro has served on numerous advisory boards, including at the Mt. Sinai-Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine; the Bellevue/NYU Occupational and Environmental Medicine Clinic; the World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening and Treatment Program; and the NJ-NY Hazardous Waste Consortium. Joel also serves as a representative of the New York City Council on the New York City Right to Know/Hazardous Substance Advisory Board.

His other honors include the Stand Up for Justice Award from the Young Korean American Service and Education Center (now the MinKwon Center); the Lorin Kerr Award by the Occupational Health Section of the American Public Health Association; and the Man of the Year Award by the Advisory Board of the Mt. Sinai Occupational and Environmental Health Clinic. Joel has a Ph.D in American History; an M.A. in Occupational Safety and Health; and an M.A.T. in Social Science Education.

NYCOSH is conducting a search for a new director (see a job description).