October 22, 2015

WHPP convenes for annual meeting, honors activists striving to benefit worker health

By Mary Krutz and Nikki Pollo

Every year dedicated members from multiple organizations and Department of Energy facilities gather together to continue the fight to protect the health of DOE workers as part of the Worker Health Protection Program (WHPP). Professionals from the DOE’s Former Worker Program, Queens College’s Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, United Steelworkers, and program site coordinators from across the nation represent the individuals who continue to build WHPP.

The diverse cadre of coordinators are from sites in Portsmouth, Ohio; Paducah, Ky.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Idaho National Labs (INL); Mound in Dayton, Ohio; the Atomic Trades Labor Council (ATLC); Berkley Labs in California; and Nevada test sites. Each of these coordinators provide unique and individual reports in various regions.

The WHPP Annual Meeting convened on Sept. 14-16, 2015 at the Washington Court Hotel in D.C. During the meeting, the above mentioned members discussed and reviewed findings from the worker health protection screening program on numerous topics such as low dose CT scans, beryllium exposure, hearing loss and EEOICPA claims cases. DOE-FWP staff also provided updates and feedback from the DOE as a whole.

USW Tony Mazzocchi Center Program Coordinator Mary Krutz serves as coordinator of the program functions and overall interaction between the USW International, local unions, DOE and Queens College. She oversees and runs the submission process for the yearly reapplication of the grant, which is a five-year award. Krutz is also involved with activities supporting the DOE’s Joint Outreach Task Group. The JOTG strives to reach former workers and educate them on how to obtain free medical screenings.

“This meeting provides the WHPP site coordinators with a closed environment allowing them to discuss program issues with the USW, Queens and DOE,” Krutz said. “This annual meeting has allowed us to  foster better working relationships between all the partners.”

Mark Griffon was recognized and presented with the Sylvia Kieding Award at the assembly for his work and participation as an appointed committee member on the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health from 2002-2014. Griffon was previously a member of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

“I am honored to have been selected as the recipient of this year's Sylvia Kieding Award for pursuing justice and promoting occupational safety and health for workers,” Griffon said. “I am especially honored to receive an award named after Sylvia Kieding – a leader in the union health and safety movement, a colleague and a close friend.”

“This award is also a reminder of the importance of working with and for union members who are directly affected by unsafe working conditions.”

Sylvia KiedingSylvia Kieding (1945-2011) was an occupational health and safety specialist with the USW and its union predecessors for 40 years. She formerly directed the Occupational Safety and Health department of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), a leading force in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in developing the Hazard Communication Standard among other occupational health policies. In 1997, she co-founded WHPP. Queens College and the USW created the Sylvia Kieding Award in 2012 to honor her, and to recognize dedicated people who strive effectively to advance the safety and health of workers, and who reflect Sylvia Kieding's commitment to justice.

“One of my best memories of working with Sylvia is traveling from Tennessee to Kentucky to Ohio and doing initial meetings with current and former workers at Oak Ridge, Paducah and Portsmouth to better understand health and safety issues at those sites,” Griffon said. “We would meet in hotels, the union hall, the local Denny’s and we would have these meetings at all hours of the day – we learned a lot and met a lot of wonderful people.”

Kieding’s legacy will carry on through the dedication of the individuals who have built and continue to strengthen the Worker Health Protection Program. The program coordinators and representatives are looking forward to a new year of strides to better protect the health of workers.

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, USW

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