Construction work is diverse and ever-changing, but the Fund’s Research Division helps Laborers keep up with developing issues and newly identified risks. By analyzing injury and illness data alongside health and welfare statistics, the Division can show the greatest threats to Laborers, focusing the prevention activities of the Fund. Problem-solvers, the Division brings others to the table to find solutions and mobilizes concerted action to get results.
A prime example was tobacco use, and the Fund’s tobacco cessation video, Clearing the Air, won the 2001 Telly Award. This effort was based on research demonstrating the impact of smoking on the health of LIUNA members. The LHSFNA’s quit-tobacco program continues to this day.
In 1999, the Fund won the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Partnering Award for work the Division did in forging the Asphalt Paving Partnership. Fumes from roadway paving machines were a pervasive problem for Laborers. At the Fund’s initiative, road and paving contractor associations worked with LIUNA, the federal government and equipment manufacturers to install fume control retrofits. Today, all new paving machines are built with fume hoods. Later, this partnership supported further research on the health effects of asphalt and promoted the use of lower temperature paving asphalt to reduce paving fume exposures.
The Division has been consistently involved with matters of hazardous materials. Working with federal research agencies, the Division developed the first health study of hazardous waste clean-up workers. Later, when the Clinton Administration acknowledged potentially lethal exposures to radiation by LIUNA members who had maintained Cold War nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities, the Fund searched out victims and fought for their compensation. And when Laborers and others who assisted in recovery and clean-up operations after 9/11 displayed serious respiratory and other illnesses, the Fund deployed Research Division Director Dr. Jim Melius to chair the Steering Committee for the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program where he led the successful decade-long struggle for just compensation.