Franklin Mirer, an industrial hygienist for the UAW, has been honored for his efforts to improve on-the-job health and safety.
He is one of two workplace experts being inducted into the National Safety Council's Safety and Health Hall of Fame.
'Mr. Mirer is widely regarded as the most influential health and safety practitioner in the organized labor movement today,' according to a statement from the National Safety Council.
Mirer, 53, has been with the union since 1975. Since 1982, he has been director of the union's Health & Safety Department.
The council noted Mirer's research into the risks of workplace exposure to metalworking fluids in the auto industry. Mirer discovered that workers exposed to such fluids experienced a high mortality rate from stomach cancer, plus asthma and bronchitis.
The UAW is encouraging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt significantly lower exposure limits.
The UAW also pressured Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee to change its fetal protection policies. Johnson Controls had prohibited all fertile women from working with lead, a known fetal toxin in the manufacture of batteries. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that it was discriminatory for employers to bar all fertile women from holding such jobs, employers reduced lead exposure by improving factory ventilation.
'Our view was that we should make it safe for everyone - men as well as women - and our people have a right to choice,' Mirer said.
Mirer has been concerned about worker exposure to a variety of other workplace substances, including silica, diesel particles, sulfuric acid and synthetic mineral fibers. He also has encouraged companies to improve factory ergonomics.
UAW research into workplace hazards has been given teeth through collective bargaining, a process in which Mirer often participates.
For example, the recent contract with DaimlerChrysler gave the union the right to debate the need for lower exposure limits to some potentially risky substances during the life of the contract.