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Tom O’Connor, former Executive Director of National COSH, Wins Steiger Award from American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists

Monday, June 2, 2014

San Antonio, TX – Tom O’Connor, former executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), was recognized by the American Council of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as recipient of the William Steiger Award, which honors social and political efforts to advance occupational safety and health.

The award is named for William Steiger, a Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin who was a sponsor of the original Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970.  It has previously been awarded to members of congress, U.S. senators and past and current directors of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA).

The award, presented at the ACGIH’s annual conference today in San Antonio, recognizes O’Connor’s role in the founding of National COSH in 2003 as well as his leadership of the organization since that time.

“Tom’s leadership in creating and building National COSH has been truly remarkable,” said Mary Vogel, who succeeded O’Connor as the group’s executive director earlier this year. “In 2003, he was one of a group of grassroots advocates who had a vision of bringing local health and safety groups together to create a strong national voice to protect working people and their families. A decade later, his hard work has helped make that vision a reality.”

“It’s both an honor and inspiration to see Tom’s work as a tenacious advocate recognized by ACGIH,” said Vogel. “The science and evidence on how to prevent workplace illnesses and injuries is well-proven. The Steiger Award is a reminder for all of us that it takes diligent organizing and coalition-building to translate what we know into action and make a real difference in the workplace.”

O’Connor has been a leading advocate for health and safety in the workplace for more than 25 years. Prior to his work as executive director of National COSH, he served as the executive director of the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project.  

O’Connor has written extensively on issues affecting immigrant workers, including a 2011 White Paper for NIOSH on effective training and education methods for immigrant workers. He also wrote a study commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences entitled “Reaching Spanish-Speaking Workers and Employers with Occupational Safety and Health Information.”

O’Connor has a B.A. in History from Duke University and a Masters of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He has served on the North Carolina OSHA Advisory Board (1996–2001); the Advisory Board of the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center (2001–2013); the Advisory Board of the Doctoral Program in Health Services Research in Occupational Safety and Health at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (2000–2006); and various grant review committees for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (2005–2009).

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.