DEPARTMENTS
img_201803-Kusnetz
IN MEMORIAM
Howard Kusnetz
BY BOB LIECKFIELD
A pioneer, a visionary, a mentor, and an influential leader who achieved many accomplishments and advanced the professional EHS needle on several fronts—this was Howard Kusnetz, who passed away on Dec. 21, 2017. Howard Kusnetz, PE, CIH, CSP, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. While in a high school chemistry class, Howard met his lifelong companion, Florence, who became a well-regarded attorney and supported AIHA during its evolutionary growth periods. Howard and Florence were married for 67 years. Their family includes sons Bob (wife Debbie) and Dan; grandchildren David, Claire, Marc, Sarah, Rami, Dvoranit, Aryeh, Shoshana, and Shira; and great grandchildren Kira, Yosef, and Roni. Howard received an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati. In 1950, after completing his graduate education in public health at Columbia University, he was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Public Health Service where he served on several critical air pollution initiatives. While stationed in Salt Lake City, he participated in studies on the health effects of uranium mining and milling, ultimately developing a method for measuring the radiation from radon and its radioactive daughter products. The Kusnetz method was recognized and validated internationally and has been the official EPA method for radon measurements ever since.  With his pioneering work in radiation measurement, Howard was reassigned to work at the continental atomic bomb tests in Nevada. He also measured potential health hazards in nuclear submarines; performed pioneering work on the health hazards of plasma torch operations; directed joint research projects with USPHS in Yugoslavia, Israel, and Germany; and, for several years, directed the training of young industrial hygienists for USPHS. While with USPHS, Howard was assigned to the White House, where he coauthored what eventually became the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created OSHA and NIOSH. At the time of his retirement from USPHS in 1971, Howard was assistant director of NIOSH.
While with USPHS, Howard was assigned to the White House, where he coauthored what eventually became the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Howard Kusnetz (pictured) served as AIHA president in 1985–86. Photo courtesy AIHA Yuma Pacific Southwest Local Section. BOB LIECKFIELD, JR., CIH, FAIHA, is the past president of the AIHA Yuma Pacific Southwest Local Section and a consultant with Bureau Veritas in Novi, Mich. He can be reached at (248) 344-2643 or via email.
Howard was recruited by Shell Oil Company to develop a corporate industrial hygiene program. Over the next twenty years, Howard developed and managed Shell Oil’s corporate-wide program in safety and industrial hygiene. This program, recognized as one of the leading SIH programs in the world, has been benchmarked by many others as the standard of excellence. Howard went on to become AIHA president in 1985 and subsequently served on various professional boards and committees that have shaped current practices in industrial hygiene. He received AIHA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1984.  His and Florence’s lasting legacy, the Florence and Howard Kusnetz Award, has been granted annually since 1989 to an industrial hygienist under 40 years of age who evidences leadership. Many Kusnetz Award recipients went on to executive positions in their organizations. The recipients gather annually at AIHce to not only honor Florence and Howard, but to welcome each new awardee into the family of leaders the profession has recognized. Howard and Florence often stated that the awardees were considered part of their family and got to know each one personally. Upon retiring from Shell, Howard joined the Executive Service Corps of Houston where he provided pro bono consulting services to local organizations. He was the consultant for risk assessment and control for the Children's Museum of Houston for over 20 years. As a member of the board of trustees of Seven Acres, a senior care facility, he was chair of the ritual committee and director of daily services for many years.  Howard’s professional accomplishments were many, yet his lasting legacy will always be his leadership; his management style, which earned the respect and admiration of many; his forthrightness; his humor; his visionary approach to issues; and the mentoring he firmly believed in for the next generation of professionals. While we’ve lost yet another giant, we’ve all gained in his and Florence’s friendship and ability to truly make a difference.
RESOURCE Houston Chronicle, Dec. 31, 2017 to Jan. 3, 2018.