Online Program

COSH Movement in New York State: Origins, Adaptation and Sustainability

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 1:18 p.m. - 1:34 p.m.

Michael B. Lax, MD MPH, Family Medicine SUNY Upstate Medical University, Occupational Health Clinical Centers, Syracuse, NY
Jeanette M. Zoeckler, MPH, SUNY Upstate Medical University Department of Family Medicine, Occupational Health Clinical Centers, Syracuse, NY
Background and Objectives

Coalitions of Occupational Safety and Health (COSHs) have played a key role advocating for worker health for more than 40 years. Providing resources to empower workers to improve workplace conditions has been a fundamental goal of the COSH movement.

 In New York State, seven COSH groups were created and have had considerable impact on worker safety and health in the state and beyond. However, there has been little attempt to formally recount and assess the varying histories and legacies of these groups. The purpose of this project is to capture at least a part of COSH history in New York. The lessons of that history will likely be of use to those pursuing worker oriented occupational health and safety goals, whether in New York or elsewhere.


In-depth interviews (32 to date) with key COSH staff and board members were recorded and transcribed. The interviews were complemented by participant observation and retrieval of archival materials.

 Results and Conclusions

All of New York’s COSH’s developed out of a common social and political milieu, and all benefited from significant State funding. However the ‘life histories’ of the individual COSHs have been quite different, with only three of the original seven still active. The interplay of intra organizational (staff, Boards of Directors) and extra organizational (union milieu, the landscape of work, local academic and activist resources, state and local politics) specific to each COSH’s locale will be described.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Compare the histories of the COSH groups in New York State Analyze reasons for the specific ‘life histories’ of the COSH groups in New York

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Public Health Movements

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a practicing occupational medicine specialist for over 25 years in New York and have been directly involved with several of the COSH groups studied. I designed the interviews, conducted many of the interviews, and analyzed the content of the interviews. I have also reviewed archival material and have researched other available written materials on COSHs.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.