The Work Place at MidHudson Regional Hospital helps keep Oscars statue makers healthy.
By David Levine
The Academy Awards: glamorous clothes, musical numbers, tearful acceptance speeches and those little golden men. But have you ever wondered where those iconic statuettes come from?
Believe it or not, the Oscar is manufactured here in the Hudson Valley. And The Work Place at MidHudson Regional Hospital helps workers at Polich Tallix, an internationally known metal foundry in Walden, stay healthy and safe.
In 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to return to the original process of casting bronze. They chose Polich Tallix, an art foundry started in the late 1960s by artist Dick Polich that quickly became the go-to place to go for both traditional and avant-garde artists, such as Roy Lichtenstein, working in metal.
While the foundry has produced celebrated works of art, it’s far from the healthiest environment. “It’s dangerous, and it’s dirty,” says Nevin Littlehale, safety and quality-control supervisor at the foundry. Temperatures around the metalwork can approach 3,000 degrees, and the jobs can range from a 13-pound Oscar to a 9-ton sculpture. That makes occupational healthcare imperative, and it’s where The Work Place at MidHudson Regional Hospital — a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) — comes in.
The Work Place offers Hudson Valley-based companies occupational health services, like training, testing and screenings, both on-site and at the hospital. “We offer a multitude of health-testing options,” says Ann Vokes, Director of The Work Place and MidHudson Regional Hospital’s Employee Assistance Program. “Over 250 companies, organizations, school districts, fire and police departments participate in our programs.”
Among the services it provides for employees are physical exams, medical evaluations, fitness testing, pulmonary function testing, vision screening, cardiograms, fitness-for-duty evaluations, drug and alcohol screenings, audiology testing and blood work. Beyond employee-health testing, says Vokes, The Work Place also examines and ensures the foundry’s respirators meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for working with heavy metals, a service it provides to any clients who need it. “I am responsible for making sure the metrics for respiration, hearing or anything else is taken care of,” says Littlehale, “and I rely on the people at MidHudson Regional Hospital to fulfill these obligations.”
The Work Place also advises companies on new equipment or procedures to help reduce health risk. “They introduced us to a company that makes a half-face mask, and the whole crew loves it,” Littlehale says. “The Work Place has brought us many products that improve our comfort while working.” In addition, The Work Place trains the Polich Tallix emergency first responders in first aid and CPR.
Vokes says it’s all part of being a full-service healthcare provider. “We are an acute-care medical center, so people think of acute care, emergency care, trauma and critical care, but they don’t think of occupational health and the impact that it has on the community,” she says. “We provide on-site services in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties. In our offices in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill, we may see a new member of a police SWAT team, a firefighter, an international seaman or a teenage military-academy candidate for physicals all in the same day.”
But, she admits, few places have the “cool” factor of Polich Tallix. “The joke around the office is that by keeping them healthy to make the statues and their other creations, The Work Place went to the Oscars!”
Photos: Teresa Horgan (The Work Place); Chris Roque for Polich Tallix