The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (COC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury. NIOSH is mandated by Congress to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women" [emphasis added]. It is important to understand and appreciate the connection between human health and workplace hazards. Although often over- looked, the workplace can have a profound impact on a worker's health, ranging from cancer in factory workers to carpal tunnel syndrome in computer users. Although NIOSH research and prevention efforts protect all workers, the Institute recognizes that women often face unique risks such as chemical and physical exposures that affect pregnancy or the menstrual cycle or hazards encountered using equipment designed for male workers of larger stature. To- day, women constitute nearly half of the American workforce, with 73% employed fulltime, and more than 20% of those working part-time holding multiple jobs. Most women work in clerical, service, professional specialty, executive/managerial, and sales jobs. The proportion of women in the workforce continues to grow. In 1964, 36.3% of women were employed, compared with 56% in 1996. Women are not only more likely to work outside the home today than in the past, but they also spend more time at work than did women in earlier years. With women working more and more hours, it is imperative to consider the workplace when examining a woman's overall health.
Julie Tisdale, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 200 Independence Avenue, SW, 715-H, Washington, DC, 20201