July 12, 2007 The Pump Handle 5Comment

John F. Martonik, 58, former deputy director of OSHA’s Health Standards Program passed away on July 11 at his home in Annandale, Virginia.  John retired from OSHA in 2002 and since then used his industrial hygiene expertise to assist workers in compensation and liability cases.  He was especially expert in evaluating occupational exposures to benzene and petroleum distillates, and was deeply committed to seeking justice for workers and their surviving spouses.

John Martonik earned a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and a Masters degree in industrial hygiene from the University of Pittsburgh (1972).  He started his career with the US Dept of Labor at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and then transferred to OSHA in 1977.  He served for 17 years in that agency’s Office of Health Standards, including many years as the deputy director.  John played a critical role in the development of workplace regulations designed to protect workers from carcinogens and other toxic agents, such as asbestos, cadmium and lead.  He was also a longstanding member of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and served as its chairman from 1993-1995.

Both inside and outside of OSHA, John Martonik was respected as an industrial hygienist and scientist.  He developed a reputation for doing the most possible for workers’ health and safety within the constraints of the politics of each Administration.  Despite his soft-spoken personality, his dedication to the promise of the OSH Act was evident in his frustration with the regulatory system.  He often complained about the difficulty of getting even the most basic protections in place for known health and safety hazards. 

“Many of us have a big hole in our hearts at this moment,” said Peter Infante DrPH DDS, a long-time colleague and friend of John’s.  [Thanks to Peter for providing much of the information contained in this post.]

Celeste Monforton, MPH is a research associate with SKAPP at the GWU School of Public Health.   She worked with John Martonik at OSHA from 1991-1995, and fondly remembers her first encounter with John when he took the time to explain to her (a lowly GS-7)  how an 8-hour TWA is calculated.  He was a kind, good teacher, who was never too busy to answer her endless questions.  

5 thoughts on “In Memoriam: John Martonik

  1. I’m sure that like all of us, John was a complicated person. But during the four years we worked together in OSHA’s Directorate of Health Standards, he evidenced a level of steadiness and dependability that was unsurpassed. He was indeed “soft-spoken,” but was intensely committed both to scientific rigor and to worker protection (and I suspect he knew that he would be more effective at both by accomplishing more and editorializing less). I will always look back with admiration at how helpful he was to me, as an “outsider” whose first job at OSHA was as director of health standards. In addition to all his personal accomplishments, he made inestimable contributions to the field by mentoring many current and future leaders in occupational health and safety.

  2. During the five years I worked with John, I never heard him raise his voice at anyone. Nor did I ever hear him denigrate another person to me. In addition to all of his attributes which others can more eloquently describe, for me he was just a wonder human being.

  3. Anson,
    Thanks so much for your comment. If you know of other former OSHA or ACGIH colleagues who would like to share thoughts about John, please encourage them to post their messages here. At some point, Mrs. Maryanne Martonik and others in his family may want to read them.


  4. I have been very touched by the outpouring of prayers, wishes, thoughts, and reflections by so many people who knew and appreciated John. He was a very good man and it helps to know that so many other people knew that as well as we did. Thank you all.

    Maryanne Martonik and family

  5. On this Labor Day weekend, it’s another wonderful time to remember the dedicated worker safety and health advocates like John Martonik who used their talents and time for the good of working people. They usually don’t make the headlines, but their contributions are enormous.

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