The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health grew out of informal, brown bag lunch meetings between health and safety activists and trade unionists in the middle to late 1970s. The federal Occupational Health and Safety Act had passed in 1970 and this group that included scientists, academics, doctors, lawyers, union representatives and rank-and-file workers discussed how to ensure that the new federal law provided the strongest possible protections to ordinary workers. They also examined problems in the workers’ compensation system and the latest scientific findings on workplace hazards.
In 1978, the committee held its first conference, “Cancer in the Workplace.” A year later, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health was incorporated, with Deborah Nagin and David Michaels (now head of federal OSHA) as its first co-coordinators. NYCOSH quickly gained prominence as a leading, authoritative voice for worker safety and health.
Over the years, we have built coalitions of community, environmental, and labor organizations to win inspirational campaigns; trained over one hundred thousand workers in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley; successfully led advocacy efforts around the creation of New York State’s occupational health clinics and the Public Employees Safety and Health Act; conducted educational conferences for hundreds of workers on the disproportionate hazards on the job facing immigrant and low-wage workers, workers’ compensation, workplace violence, asbestos, office hazards, and ergonomics; and provided thousands of various technical assistance consultations on issues ranging from the aftermath of a wastewater treatment plant explosion and lab safety in schools.
NYCOSH was at the forefront of disaster response and recovery after the World Trade Center disaster, as well as after Sandy, and continues to advocate for disaster preparedness through its work on infectious diseases–most recently, Ebola.
Additionally, NYCOSH has been at the forefront of one of the most inspirational campaigns of low-wage immigrant women workers to hit New York City. In 2014, Adhikaar and NYCOSH developed a partnership to create a stronger, unified voice for healthier nail salons in New York. Through organizing, research, policy advocacy, and consumer engagement, we have influenced diverse stakeholders and fostered a transformation of the industry. The New York Healthy Nail Salons Coalition continues to be a key campaign of NYCOSH as we seek to further impact nail salons throughout New York State and the country at large.