Obama Taps UML Professor

04/05/2010
By From the Lowell Sun

By Hiroko Sato

LOWELL -- From a mechanical failure to human errors, chemical exposures at a workplace can happen for a number of reasons.

After working to help prevent chemical-related industrial injuries for decades, University of Massachusetts professor Rafael Moure-Eraso has been recruited by the White House to do it in Washington.

"I consider it to be an honor," said Moure-Eraso of his nomination to the chairmanship of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. He hopes his nomination will help raise awareness that UMass Lowell, his academic home of 22 years, has a solid program in the field.

President Barack Obama recently announced his intent to nominate Moure-Eraso, chairman of the Department of Work Environment in the School of Health and Environment at UMass Lowell, as chairman of the CSB. Obama also plans to nominate Mark Griffon, a UMass Lowell graduate and founder of Creative Pollution Solutions Inc. of Salem, N.H., as a member of the CSB. The nominations require congressional confirmation.

Moure-Eraso brings 37 years of experience in work-environment study. He spent two years in an intergovernmental personnel assignment at the U.S. Department of Labor as a special senior adviser on the prevention of chemical exposures to the assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA).

Before joining UMass Lowell as an associate professor in 1988, Moure-Eraso spent 15 years as an industrial hygienist engineer at the national offices of two international unions -- the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) and the United Automobile Workers (UAW).

He was a visiting lecturer in occupational health at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1993 to 2000, and has been a member of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health for OSHA as well as the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Moure-Eraso, who is also a graduate coordinator for his department at UMass Lowell, said it has been gratifying to help 350 students learn about industrial safety. With many manufacturing businesses going overseas, the field now involves health issues related to service industries as well, ranging from workload and its impact on workers to how to organize a workplace, he said.

"There is nothing static about this," Moure-Eraso said.

Moure-Eraso holds bachelor's and master's degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and Bucknell University and a master's and Ph.D. in Environment Health from the University of Cincinnati. The 63-year-old Colombia native has been a U.S. citizen for 25 years. A resident of Medford, he is married with two sons.

Before founding his company in 1992, Griffon worked for UMass Lowell's Work Environment Department as well, developing hazardous waste training, radiation worker training and toxics use reduction planning curricula.

While at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, located on the UMass Lowell campus, Griffon also headed an effort to conduct industry-specific planning workshops with metal working companies, electronics companies, chemical and plastics industries and paper and textile manufacturers, according to the White House.