Archive for NIOSH

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 [...]

Hearing Loss Among Construction Workers: Chemicals Can Make It Worse

Three out of four construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the jobsite.[i] Noise levels are considered hazardous when they reach 85 decibels or higher. A NIOSH study examining hearing loss across industries found that construction workers have higher levels of hearing loss than workers in most industries.[ii] The highest rates are experienced by construction workers in nonresidential building construction, highway and bridge construction, and heavy and civil engineering. [iii] Read more [...]

Assessing Lifting Risk Factors Using Wearable Motion Sensors

A combination of work-related physical risk factors such as awkward postures or heavy lifting may lead to an increased risk of developing low back issues. Those in the occupational safety and health field continue to conduct research to prevent workplace musculoskeletal injuries. Researchers have used industry settings, self-reports and observational methods to evaluate these injuries. However, these methods have limitations because of the subjective ratings of risk factors. Recent developments in Read more [...]

Manufacturing Day 2020: Staying Safer in 2020

National Manufacturing Day 2020 is a day devoted to educating the public about manufacturing and manufacturers. About the Manufacturing Sector Manufacturing is the fourth largest industrial sector in the United States, currently employing about 15.6 million Americans, [1] representing aabout 11% of the gross domestic product. [2] The White House has declared manufacturing to be a national priority. [3] Manufacturing workers experience a higher percentage of nonfatal injuries and illnesses per capita Read more [...]

Preventing Struck-by Injuries in Construction

Struck-by injuries are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries and the second most common cause of fatalities among construction workers (1), costing over $1.7 billion in workers compensation costs in 2016 (2). These injuries occur when a worker is struck by a moving vehicle, equipment, or by a falling or flying object, (3). For construction workers, the risk of nonfatal struck-by injuries is twice the risk of all other industries combined, and construction workers have the highest number of fatal Read more [...]

The Unique Occupational Environment of the Home Healthcare Worker

Patient care is expanding beyond the walls of healthcare organizations. Improvements in technology, progression of disease management, and a growing number of persons seeking care within their homes are driving the growth of the home healthcare industry. Home healthcare workers (HHCWs) are a vital part of the rapidly growing industry and their work environment and occupational hazards are as diverse as the communities and homes they enter to provide care. The home healthcare service industry is one Read more [...]

Wildland Firefighter Health: Some Burning Questions

While research has not yet been conducted on all the hazards and risks associated with the wildland firefighting job, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is asked numerous questions about the hazards of fighting wildland fires. This blog is designed to answer some of those questions. What Is in Wildland Fire Smoke? Wildland fire smoke is a mixture of gases and particles such as carbon monoxide (CO) and respirable particulate matter (PM) that may cause short- and long-term Read more [...]

Rising to the Challenges and Opportunities Presented by the Future of Work: NIOSH introduces its Future of Work Initiative

The future of work is influenced by many changes to workplace, work, and workforce factors such as organizational design, work arrangements, technological job displacement, artificial intelligence, robotics, technologies, demographics, economic security, and skills. Advances in the future of work offer many opportunities, but they also create challenges for the workplace and work, with consequences for the safety, health, and well‐being of the workforce. Holistic workplace and work programs, Read more [...]

Protecting Machine Operators from Silica Dust: Enclosed Cabs

  Construction workers who operate heavy equipment such as excavators, bulldozers, cranes, and backhoes frequently generate large quantities of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. Exposure to even small amounts of RCS over time can cause silicosis, lung cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other serious diseases. A recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that 79% of the 100,000 workers exposed to RCS above the recommended exposure Read more [...]

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Opioid Overdose Epidemic: A Perfect Storm for Workers?

Introduction Before the pandemic took hold, the United States was already facing another public health crisis – alarming rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2018, 46,802 deaths were attributed to opioids, which accounted for 69% of all drug overdose deaths.1 Based on provisional data, an estimated 50,828 Americans died of opioid overdose in 2019 — 70% of the total estimated drug overdose deaths last year. As COVID-19 has swept the nation and globe, the virus and its implications Read more [...]

Statement by Dr. John Howard on the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance 2020

Nineteen years ago, we faced the unimaginable. The events of September 11th, 2001, have left a permanent mark on us all. Today we remember the lives lost on that fateful day, as well as the bravery, resilience, and sacrifice shown in the face of tragedy by responders and survivors. Each Day of Remembrance is also a chance for reflection about 9/11. Almost two decades later, many responders and survivors still suffer the long-term health effects, both physically and mentally. Their resolve and health Read more [...]

Partnering to Prevent Suicide in the Construction Industry – Building Hope and a Road to Recovery

September is Suicide Prevention Month. During this yearly observance, many organizations will place special emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention – including those in the construction industry where suicide rates of workers are alarmingly high.1 Overall, suicide rates in the U.S. have increased, and it has been the 10th leading cause of death since 2008.2 Additionally, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) MMWR found during late June 2020, forty percent of U.S. Read more [...]

Supplementing the Supply of N95s with Reusable Elastomeric Half Mask Respirators

As we celebrate our annual Respiratory Protection Week Observance this year, we at NIOSH want to show our appreciation to all the workers who use respiratory protection and the manufacturers who develop these products to keep our nation’s workers safe. Whether your role is to heal, protect, create, or construct, we rely on your skills and your willingness to do a job that requires systems to be in place to protect the health and safety of America’s workers. We continue striving to support Read more [...]

Respiratory Protection vs. Source Control – What’s the difference?

In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends that adults and children two years and older wear a mask, especially when social distancing is not possible or feasible[1]. Cloth masks and medical masks used in healthcare settings (such as surgical or procedure masks) are important tools in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, however they are not a type of respiratory protection. Due to limited supplies, respiratory protection should be reserved for workers who rely on Read more [...]

Labor Day 2020: Statement by John Howard, M.D., Director, NIOSH

Labor Day was created to honor workers for their contributions and achievements at a time in history when workers faced long working hours and dangerous working conditions. The need to recognize our nation’s workers for their contributions and resilience could not be more relevant today. Millions of workers provide “essential services”—services that are vital to the health and welfare or critical infrastructure of our nation. These workers carry on through disasters or public Read more [...]

Take Action to Protect Your Hearing

  In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition among adults after hypertension and arthritis. About 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to occupational noise each year. About 12% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty and around 58% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is attributable to occupational exposures. Within every industry sector, there are some workers exposed to hazardous noise levels, although some workers in mining, Read more [...]

Cannabis and Work: The Need for More Research

Introduction Cannabis sativa has been used for a wide variety of industrial, medical, and non-medical uses for thousands of years, yet remains a source of controversy across the fields of medicine, law, and occupational safety1-5. Access to and consumption of cannabis have increased as a result of more favorable public attitudes and state access laws. Nearly 18 percent of full-time workers and 21 percent of part-time workers used cannabis in 20186. Lifetime, past-year, and past-month use among full-time Read more [...]

An Expanded Focus for Occupational Safety and Health

  Work is changing. Technology, globalization, shifts in demographics, and other economic and political forces create new challenges for workers, employers, and those who work to protect them. In a recent commentary in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health we suggest that the field of occupational safety and health (OSH) must also change to meet the needs of the future. Factors influencing worker health and well-being go beyond traditional OSH concerns (exposures Read more [...]

A Guide to Respirators Used for Dust in Construction

Construction dust can cause serious damage to workers’ health and life-threatening diseases. Construction workers can be exposed to many types of dust, such as silica, wood, and lead dust. Workplace exposure to small particles of silica dust, also known as respirable crystalline silica, can lead to serious diseases, including silicosis, a progressive lung disease marked by scarring and thickening of the lung tissue; lung cancer; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and kidney disease. Read more [...]

Research Questions for Aerosol Scientists Addressing COVID-19 and the Workplace

  The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has raised many questions about the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, including the possibility of aerosol transmission. In the workplace, workers may encounter asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and symptomatic individuals who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 and may expel airborne particles containing the virus. Aerosol scientists bring a unique understanding of airborne particle behavior to infectious disease transmission Read more [...]

Work Ability among Older Nurses

  As the U.S. workforce ages, many older nurses continue to work in direct patient care. However, by 2030, an estimated 1 million nurses will have retired from the workforce (Buerhaus, Skinner, Auerbach, & Staiger, 2017). The known safety and health hazards for nurses in direct-care positions could be even more dangerous for older workers. Nursing care requires physical tasks with repeated bending, lifting, and twisting that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). On average, nurses Read more [...]