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Environmental Factor

December 2011

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Hughes honored for worker training efforts

By Ian Thomas
December 2011

Chip Hughes

Hughes was among the first to be on the scene during 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, and numerous other national disasters, promoting the safety and well-being of workers and responders. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program (WETP) Director Chip Hughes was recognized by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) with the prestigious Tony Mazzocchi Award for his work in developing environmental health education programs for people in high-risk occupations and communities. Presented at this year's National Worker Health and Safety Training Conference and Summit Oct. 28-29 in Baltimore, the award recognizes excellence on the part of those who promote the health and safety rights of workers. 

“It truly is an honor to receive this award,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, worker training and education is all about giving people the tools that they need to lead healthier lives, and I feel so very fortunate to have made my career contributing to such a noble cause.”

In addition to his many achievements in worker education and training, Hughes has also been instrumental in coordinating the federal government's response during several national disasters, among them 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Gulf oil spill.

“This award is a direct reflection of the incredible work that Chip and the WETP staff are doing,” said NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. “His dedication and wealth of experience in leveraging federal resources have resulted in safer and healthier workers.”

A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hughes joined WETP in 1990 with an extensive background in worker training and environmental justice.

“I first met Chip back in 1993 when he and his staff were working to help get the [U.S.] Department of Energy's (DOE) Nuclear Worker Training Program off the ground,” recalled Deborah Weinstock, the director of the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training who introduced Hughes for the award. “I was working with DOE at the time and, back then, I could never have imagined that, twenty years later, we'd still be working together.”

Having long since established himself as a governmental fixture in the environmental justice arena, Hughes has never wavered in his belief that the community's best interests, and those of its workers, should always come first.

“Chip has always been a firm believer in giving the communities affected by these disasters a voice in the response and cleanup process,” Weinstock explained. “For that reason, he also believes in leveraging federal resources, by partnering with other agencies, to get things done.”

Formed in 1972, the National COSH( Exit NIEHS is a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety. At present, there are 21 COSH groups around the country.

(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

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