Amid tragedy, three honored for workplace safety

On the very night that emergency personnel were digging through the rubble in search of employees and shoppers trapped in a collapsed building,  three leaders in the field of workplace safety were honored -- blocks away -- during graduation ceremonies for the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund.

They were David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Barbara Rahke, executive director of Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Health and Safety (PhilaPOSH), Dr. Arthur Frank, chairman of the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University's School of Public Health.  

“Every year in this country 4 million workers suffer a workplace injury. Each day, 12 workers suffer a workplace fatality. There is no stronger advocate for the rights of working people than Dr. Michaels.  He is committed to ensuring a safe workplace for that nation’s 130 million workers,” said Cheryl Feldman, executive director of the Training Fund.

David Michaels was appointed by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He became the 12th assistant Labor secretary of OSHA in December, 2009.

Also honored as an outstanding employer partner was Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Thomas Jefferson University.

District 1199C is a health care workers union affiliated with AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. Henry Nicholas is the union's president. The training and upgrading fund educates members and others in many fields, particularly in health-related skills, but also in basic literacy, English as a second language and graduate equivalency diploma training. Three hundred students participated in Wednesday's graduation ceremony, held at the Kimmel Center.

Philadelphia school superintendent William R. Hite Jr. gave the keynote address.