The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has expanded its technical and scientific capacity with the addition of Michael Wilson, former director of the COEH Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP). Wilson joined DIR headquarters as the chief scientist in December 2013. DIR resides within the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and oversees state programs dedicated to protecting the health, safety and economic security of California’s 18 million workers. Wilson will provide support to DIR director Christine Baker in all areas of DIR’s operations, including the Governor’s Interagency Refinery Safety Task Force, where he is heading up DIR’s efforts to rewrite the state’s Process Safety Management Standard in the wake of the August 2012 fire at the Chevron, Richmond refinery.
Since joining COEH in 2003 as an assistant research scientist, Wilson’s research, writing and practice at UC Berkeley have focused on the intersection of occupational and environmental health sciences and on public policy and law as a critical component of social and industrial transformation. His technical work focused on green chemistry, alternatives assessment, worker health and safety, and emergency preparedness and response. Wilson’s initial report in 2006 to the California Legislature, together with a second report authored by COEH researcher Megan Schwarzman MD, MPH ’07 and UCLA colleagues—and signed by 127 UC faculty from across the system—formed the theoretical foundation for the state’s Green Chemistry Initiative and the recently adopted Safer Consumer Products Regulations.
In 2005, Wilson founded the Program in Chemicals Policy and Green Chemistry at COEH. In 2007, he worked with Schwarzman and Marty Mulvihill in the College of Chemistry, along with other colleagues in the colleges and schools of public health, chemistry, natural resources, engineering and business, to organize the nation’s first interdisciplinary Center for Green Chemistry. The center was recently awarded an Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IFERT) grant from the National Science Foundation.
Wilson joined the Labor Occupational Health Program as Director in 2011, where he worked with labor and environmental justice groups to organize the Refinery Action Collaborative in response to the Richmond, Chevron fire of August 2012. That fire nearly claimed the lives of 19 Chevron workers and ultimately caused some 15,000 area residents to seek medical attention for symptoms related to exposure to products of combustion. The collaborative is a working coalition of the United Steelworkers International Union (USW), USW Locals 5 and 326, the BlueGreen Alliance, the environmental justice groups Communities for a Better Environment and Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and the national environmental organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Wilson earned a BA with Thesis Honors in Biology (1984) from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MPH (1998) in Environmental Health Sciences (Industrial Hygiene) from the University of California, Berkeley. He earned the Ph.D (2003) in Environmental Health Sciences from Berkeley, studying under COEH chemist and industrial hygienist Professor S. Katharine Hammond. He was appointed by Assembly Speaker John Pérez in 2007 to the state’s Biomonitoring Science Guidance Panel, and he served on California EPA’s Green Chemistry Science Advisory Panel and Green Ribbon Science Panel. Wilson is also a graduate of the Trade Union Program at Harvard University (1995), the Proyecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin in Antigua, Guatemala (1987), and the Pre-Hospital Care Program at Stanford University (1985).