Archive for NIOSH

NIOSH 50th Anniversary Honored by National Toxicology Program

This text was first published as an article in the April 2021 NIEHS newsletter Environmental Factor. Common goals and collaborative research signify the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s participation in the NTP. Marking a major milestone, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) acclaims its common goals and collaborative research with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This year is the 50th anniversary of NIOSH, which was created by the Occupational Read more [...]

Improving Our Understanding of Nonfatal Occupational Injuries

  Counting and describing nonfatal occupational injuries are vital to understanding and prevention. However, this is very difficult to accomplish on a national level. There are large numbers of injuries that are captured, in part, by different sources, and some are not captured at all. There is no single, comprehensive national source of occupational injury data. Additionally, there are numerous issues with occupational injury surveillance because workers and employers underreport injuries as Read more [...]

Preventing Struck-by Injuries in Construction: Lift Zone Safety

The second annual National Stand-Down to Prevent Struck-by Incidents hosted by the NORA Construction Sector Council will take place April 26th, 2021, during National Work Zone Awareness Week (1). During this event, construction employers and employees will learn about best practices and methods to prevent struck-by incidents. Emphasis has been placed on the prevention of these types of incidents because they are the number one cause of injury and number two cause of death in the construction industry Read more [...]

Taking it to the Streets… and the Mines

Two unique NIOSH programs bring vital safety and health screening directly to miners. Mobile Hearing Tests Miners are at increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss from the use of high-powered motorized equipment, air-powered tools, and work involving striking, drilling and digging. To protect workers’ hearing, employers must have a hearing conservation program in place which includes engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment. Additionally, annual hearing Read more [...]

Suicides Among First Responders: A Call to Action

  The recent Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention” highlighted suicides as a significant public health problem. In 2019, there were 47,500 suicide fatalities in the U.S. and an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts[1]. The causes of suicide are complex, with many personal, socio-demographic, medical, and economic factors playing a role. One potential risk factor is occupation and several occupations appear to be at higher Read more [...]

Stand-Down for Falls in Its 8th Year: Continuing Need to Prevent Falls in Construction in the U.S. and Internationally

The National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction was launched in 2012 through the NORA Construction Sector Council with leadership from NIOSH, OSHA, and CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training to address the high rate of both fatal and nonfatal falls in the industry. While we encourage participation in the Campaign year-round, each spring, a Safety Stand-Down is held to encourage employers across the country to focus on fall prevention. The 2021 National Safety Stand-Down Read more [...]

COVID-19 and Wildland Firefighters

Wildfires do not stop during a pandemic. The 2020 fire season saw the first-ever single wildfire to burn over 1 million acres, with 44 days at the highest fire preparedness level (and 30 days higher than the 5-year average) when fire personnel and resources are extremely scarce. Circumstances surrounding wildfire incidents can put wildland firefighters at increased risk for the transmission of infectious diseases including COVID-19, due to the fact that firefighters: Work and live in close conditions Read more [...]

NTOF: Understanding Worker Deaths through Surveillance

To accomplish the NIOSH mandate, “to assure so far as possible every man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources,” an accurate, comprehensive accounting of the number of workers who die at work is needed. These data help identify high-risk worker populations and describe the circumstances surrounding workplace fatalities. Prior to 1984, there was no national system for counting occupational fatalities. To fill this knowledge gap, Read more [...]

Dream to Reality: NIOSH Early Years

As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of NIOSH, we look back on our history. The long hoped for goal of a federal entity devoted to occupational safety and health was taking shape in the mid to late 1960’s with collaborative work between and among scientists (both inside and outside of government), labor leaders, and legislators. Their hard work bore fruit and hopes became reality in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. Today we share excerpts from The National Institute for Read more [...]

Using Workplace Absences to Measure How COVID-19 Affects America’s Workers

Since September 2017, NIOSH has monitored the monthly prevalence of health-related workplace absences among full-time workers in the United States using nationally representative data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). This data can be a useful way to measure the effect COVID-19 has had on the U.S. working population.

COVID-19 Poses Big Challenges for Small Construction Firms

Occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals can help small construction firms build safety into their worksites, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Small construction firms, with 20 or fewer employees, face constant challenges obtaining safety information and resources. They are less likely to belong to trade associations or be connected to unions, which are common sources for this information [1]. In some cases, these companies employ crews that do not speak English as their first language. Read more [...]

Preventing Needlestick Injuries at COVID–19 Vaccination Sites

  Note: If you experience a needlestick from a used or contaminated needle, seek immediate evaluation and treatment. Call the PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) hotline at      1–888–448–4911 immediately for guidance on treating exposures. Introduction The availability of effective vaccines is a major milestone for the fight against the virus that causes COVID–19. However, the effort to administer vaccines to the large number of people who need to Read more [...]

Lung Disease in Textile Workers

This blog is part of a series for NIOSH’s 50th anniversary highlighting research and prevention throughout the Institute’s history. Background Since the 1970s, NIOSH has worked to prevent illness from cotton dust. Byssinosis is an airways disease with features of both asthma and COPD that occurs with exposure to cotton dust. In the early 1970s, the prevalence of byssinosis among US cotton workers was estimated at 20%. In 1974, NIOSH released a Criteria Document that summarized the available Read more [...]

Advancements in Elastomeric Respirator Technology for Use as Source Control

Respirator design is constantly improving and evolving to meet new challenges. Manufacturers have recently developed innovative NIOSH-approved elastomeric half mask respirator (EHMR) designs that both protect the wearer as well as provide adequate source control – protecting others by filtering the wearer’s exhaled air that may contain harmful viruses or bacteria. EHMRs are being used more widely in U.S. healthcare systems because they can be cleaned, disinfected, and reused. During Read more [...]

The Physiological Response of Working in Cold Environments and how your PPE can Help

Recent NIOSH science blogs have discussed the physiological impact of wearing respirators. The first blog in this vein explored the Physiological Burden of Prolonged PPE Use on Healthcare Workers during Long Shifts, including potential CO2 buildup. A second blog addressed Heat Stress Imposed by PPE Worn in Hot and Humid Environments and how healthcare workers and their employers can recognize and mitigate potential stressors. As a third installment of this series, this blog addresses the general Read more [...]

Relationship Advice on Valentine’s Day: Quality Assurance—In a Respirator, That Is

  On this Valentine’s Day, what lessons can respirator manufacturers learn from Liz Taylor, Larry King, Lana Turner, and Mickey Rooney? Why, the importance of quality assurance, of course. All of these celebs were married eight times—for Liz and Larry, they actually tied the knot twice with the same person—but their repeated unluckiness in love tells us that no matter how successful one is at starting a relationship, it might not stand up when put to a true, rigorous test of Read more [...]

NIOSH Directors

Since the creation of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1971, the Institute has had six Directors who shaped NIOSH into what it is today. The Occupational Safety and Health Act states “The Institute shall be headed by a Director who shall be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and who shall serve for a term of six years unless previously removed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” Summaries of the accomplishments of each Read more [...]

Protecting Worker Hearing

These days it seems there are so many steps to stay safe from the COVID-19 virus, but we should also remember to remain diligent in our efforts to protect against other workplace hazards. There is a dramatic impact on quality of life associated with worker hearing loss and ‘ringing in the ears’ (tinnitus). Unless precautions are taken to protect hearing, workers will need to deal with the hearing they have permanently lost and the annoyance or disruption from tinnitus symptoms. In addition Read more [...]

Envisioning the Future of Construction: Challenges and Opportunities for Occupational Safety and Health

Introduction Today’s construction industry is quite different than what existed just a few decades ago. These days, it is much less common to see workers hauling around rolls of hand drawn blueprints, punching numbers into printing calculators, or fiddling with slide rules. Records and plans are now created and stored digitally; workers use new, more efficient tools; and many on the construction site are equipped with various types of smart devices and handheld technologies. The workforce demographic Read more [...]

Overview of the ASTM F3407 Standard Test Method for Respirator Fit Capability

The Fundamental Importance of Fit One of the most important criteria for any filtering facepiece air-purifying respirator to be effective is that a good seal is formed between the respirator’s facepiece and the wearer’s skin. The ability to achieve this seal is called the respirator’s fitting characteristic. In 1995, when NIOSH put Title 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 84 (42CFR84) into operation, it did not include an evaluation of the fitting characteristics of respirators Read more [...]

Choosing the “Right” Fatigue Monitoring and Detection Technology

Fatigue can shorten concentration, slow reaction times and impair decision-making skills resulting in increased health and safety risks for workers. It has been estimated that one in five fatal motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. can be attributed to fatigue. In addition, workers with sleep problems are 62% more likely to experience a work-related injury1,2. While the adverse effects of fatigue are well known, the sources of fatigue can be attributed to a number of different factors, making it challenging Read more [...]

COVID-19 and Workplace Fatigue: Lessons Learned and Mitigation Strategies

  The declaration of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a US public health emergency on March 13, 2020, altered the way we work and live, intensified feelings of stress, and created uncertainty about the future for many people. The closure of many businesses led to financial instability and the highest unemployment rates since 1976 1. Exposure to an abundance of news coverage, some of which has been conflicting or has changed over time, has fueled feelings of mistrust and fear2-5. New routines Read more [...]

The Role of Organizational Design in the Future of Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted our society and economy. Every day, employers and workers find themselves encountering unforeseen challenges, finding novel ways of working, and adapting to a “new normal.” In a time when much is unknown, one thing is clear: the future of work is already here. As it unfolds, the future of work will continue to include complex changes to the workplace, work, and workforce, all of which will require sustained attention from occupational safety Read more [...]

NIOSH Celebrates 50 Years in 2021

In 2021 we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that created NIOSH “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions.” NIOSH began operating on April 28, 1971. This month we begin the yearlong commemoration of our 50th anniversary which includes a blog series and an eNews and Research Rounds series Read more [...]

Most-viewed NIOSH Products of 2020

Each January we look back on the most popular NIOSH information from the prior year. With 2020 focused on COVID-19, much of what was posted and accessed on the NIOSH website and the NIOSH social media accounts related to the pandemic. NIOSH is responsible for certifying respirators, including N95 filtering facepiece respirators. Throughout the pandemic NIOSH has provided respiratory protection solutions and strategies to help address the widespread respiratory protection shortage. Some of that work Read more [...]

Understanding the Broad Class of Carbon Nanotubes and Nanofibers (CNT/F) Used or Produced in U.S. Facilities

  Engineered nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes and nanofibers (CNT/F), hold great promise for society by revolutionizing many industries with applications from medicine to manufactured composites. The properties that make them so promising may also have the potential to cause harm to people if inhaled. Understanding potential health effects, conducting field exposure studies, and developing good practices promotes safe handling and responsible development of products using these materials. Read more [...]

NIOSH Efforts to Keep Workers and the Country Safe During the Pandemic

  It is an understatement to say that 2020 was an unprecedented year. As we enter 2021 with hope and optimism, we would like to highlight the work of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) staff who worked tirelessly to protect workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The NIOSH mission is to protect worker safety and health and as such, much of our work on the COVID-19 pandemic response centers around worker safety and health. However, what is learned in the workplace Read more [...]

Lighting Interventions to Reduce Circadian Disruption in Rotating Shift Workers

  Shift work has been linked to poor sleep, chronic metabolic disorders (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity), several forms of cancer [1-3], depression, and elevated risk for the occurrence of accidents. These risks are especially acute for those who work rotating shifts that involve working through the night [4-8], as sometimes occur in hospitals. Studies show that healthcare workers are at greater risk for shift-work-related health and safety problems compared to their colleagues Read more [...]

Celebrating Nurses

Could there be a more fitting year to honor nurses?  As 2020 comes to a close, so does our blog series celebrating the Year of the Nurse.  The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our healthcare system and, in some cases, pushed it to the brink. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are working tirelessly and sacrificing much while caring for patients during this pandemic. As of December 14, 2020, CDC reports 273,233 cases of COVID-19 and 915 deaths in healthcare workers. These figures likely Read more [...]

Exoskeletons and Occupational Health Equity

  In the workplace, you need your equipment to fit perfectly. Historically, personal protective equipment (PPE) had been developed from measurements taken from male military recruits in the United States during the 1950s to the 1970s [1]. These data do not represent the range of body shapes and sizes in the majority of the modern workforce, as they are based on men who were young, fit, and the majority of whom were white. This has resulted in poorly fitting PPE for women, non-whites, and individuals Read more [...]

Preventing Needlesticks and Sharps Injuries: Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act

November marked the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (PL 106-430) into law. The act required that OSHA amend its Bloodborne Pathogens Standard to include additional protections for workers to prevent occupational exposures to blood and body fluids. This included: new requirements for the evaluation and use of engineering controls (sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems), annual employer considerations of safer medical devices Read more [...]

Computer Vision Development for Estimating Trunk Angles

  Work-related musculoskeletal disorders have been linked to many physical job risk factors, such as forceful movement, repetitive exertions, awkward posture and vibration. These job risk factors are typically evaluated using ergonomic risk assessment methods or tools. These methods are predominantly self-reporting and observational. Self-reporting methods can be questionnaires, checklists or interviews. Observational methods entail observing pre-defined risk factors using ergonomics checklists Read more [...]

Millersville University Students Support NIOSH Research

  Two students from Millersville University in Pennsylvania, Emily Rae Seiler and Samuel Welk, recently completed virtual internships with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Division of Safety Research and Division of Science Integration. Building on their coursework in an Occupational Safety and Environmental Health class, the students supported NIOSH research endeavors while working on real-life safety and health issues. Summaries of the student projects follow. Read more [...]

A Physico-chemical and Toxicological Evaluation of Fracking Sand Dusts

  During hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a fluid is pumped under high pressure into a well bore to create fissures in the rock to facilitate the removal of gas. This fracking fluid contains a large number of ingredients, including water, chemical agents, and sand. The manipulation of sand at the well site creates respirable dust [fracking sand dust (FSD)] to which workers are exposed. A series of nine papers was recently published as a special issue in Toxicology and Applied Read more [...]

Working from Home: How to Optimize Your Work Environment and Stay Healthy

  Many workers continue to telework during the pandemic. While some may be fortunate to have a designated home office, others are competing for workspace with family members. A makeshift desk at the kitchen table or a temporary bedroom office are common. These new work arrangements combined with the additional stressors of working at home may be taking a toll on our health. Here are some tips to optimize your telework environment and help manage stress during these challenging times. Start with Read more [...]

Jobs and Exposures That Increase Risk for Developing COPD Later in Life

The 19th annual World COPD Day is November 18, 2020. COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – includes the chronic lung conditions of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are characterized by airflow obstruction and breathing-related problems. COPD is a major cause of illness, with an estimated 300 million cases worldwide, and is the 3rd leading cause of death globally. There is no cure for COPD. Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of COPD. Efforts to prevent COPD Read more [...]

Can Exoskeletons Reduce Musculoskeletal Disorders in Healthcare Workers?

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) remain a major concern for workers in the healthcare industry. Healthcare workers are at high risk of work-related MSDs mainly caused by overexertion from lifting and moving patients (i.e., patient handling). Wearable robots—exoskeletons or exosuits—may be a useful tool to help reduce risk of MSDs during patient handling. Background Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, hospital workers have nearly twice the rate of overexertion injuries Read more [...]

Recognizing Health Literacy at NIOSH

  As we come to the end of Health Literacy Month this October, we remember the quotation often attributed to Einstein, “that all physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart, ought to lend themselves to so simple a description ‘that even a child could understand them.’” There is an expectation in the research community that writing about science requires jargon and to write in plain language is less clear or correct. This is not true. Plain language can be Read more [...]

Introducing an Occupational Health Resource: The Occupational Noise Job Exposure Matrix

Introduction Noise-induced hearing loss is highly prevalent in the U.S., and noise is increasingly being linked to other non-auditory health effects such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, and stress. However, our knowledge of noise exposures associated with many U.S. occupations is lacking. To address this issue, researchers used existing resources to develop a first-of-its-kind Job Exposure Matrix (JEM) for noise which allows users to estimate workplace noise exposures on a national Read more [...]

The Story of a Lead Disaster Averted

A Sick Child and the Search for Answers   This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The following fictional story of take-home lead exposure among children exemplifies a very real problem. A state health department is notified about a three-year-old boy who had recently been seen by his pediatrician due to ongoing vomiting, appetite loss, and fatigue. A series of diagnostic tests revealed that the child had an extremely elevated blood lead level (BLL). This discovery triggered an Read more [...]