Over 16 million people are employed in the Manufacturing Sector of the United States, based upon The U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data as of December 2008. Workers are at risk for illness and injuries because of long hours, changing shifts, contact with machinery and equipment, slips and falls, physical exertion and repetitive motions causing musculoskeletal disorders, hazardous exposure to toxic substances such as heavy metals, organic solvents, pesticides, dust, isocyanates, chemicals, aerosol, nanoparticals, carbon monoxide, explosions and structural failures, noise, ototoxicants, stress and new technologies in work organization, etc.
The majority of the jobs in the Manufacturing Sector are labor intensive. Workers are engaged in the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of material, substances or components into products. Establishments in the manufacturing sector are often described as plants, factories, or mills and characteristically use power-driven machines and materials/handling equipment. However, establishments that transform materials or substances into new products by hand or in the worker's home and those engaged in selling to the general public products made on the same premises from which they are sold, such as bakeries, candy stores, and custom tailors, may also be included in this sector. Manufacturing establishments may process materials or may contract with other establishments to process their materials for them. Both types of establishments are included in manufacturing.
The mission of the NIOSH research program for the Manufacturing sector is to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in manufacturing industries through a focused program of research and prevention. The program strives to fulfill its mission through the following:
- High Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational injuries and illnesses among workers in manufacturing industries.
For example, working with commercial rotogravure printers, NIOSH researchers showed that printers exposed to both toluene and noise had a higher probability of developing hearing loss than workers exposed to noise alone or toluene alone. They also found that noise control solutions for the presses often increased the concentration of toluene present around the presses. This Ototoxicity Research has led to increased awareness of chemical and noise interactions in a variety of industries.
- Practical Solutions: The NIOSH program for the Manufacturing sector is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in these industries.
For example, the household appliance industry involves manually intensive parts assembly that is governed by a fixed work pace. A NIOSH workplace assessment found that attaching a bellows part to the drum of a washing machine created a bottleneck in the production line and was a high risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Specialty equipment was adapted from a similar operation in Europe to mechanize this procedure. The installation of this equipment reduced exposure to forceful pinching and decreased the amount of finger pain among the work group. This equipment also eliminated this task as a bottleneck in the assembly line.
- Partnerships: NIOSH recognizes that collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are usually the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH program for the Manufacturing sector.
An example of this type of partnering can be found in the GM-UAW-NIOSH Partnership. NIOSH has a Memorandum of Understanding jointly with General Motors (GM) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to address occupational safety and health research issues of mutual interest. Under this partnership agreement, GM has provided technical expertise and access to their facilities, the UAW has provided technical expertise and access to their members, and NIOSH has provided scientific leadership and manpower. Issues such as metalworking fluids and hearing protection have been addressed through the partnership, and have resulted in safer working conditions within GM plants and for UAW members. NIOSH has generalized and disseminated the results to improve safety and health working conditions for workers and companies using similar processes.
- Research to Practice (r2p): NIOSH believes that our research only realizes its true value when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH program for the Manufacturing sector formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace.
An example of r2p for the Manufacturing sector program can be seen in foundry research. Over the years, NIOSH has conducted a wide variety of research projects in foundries, focusing on such contaminants as crystalline silica. This research has resulted in a number of NIOSH products that have provided the foundry industry with the assistance needed to better control their crystalline silica exposures. These products include Caution: Foundry at Work, a video on foundry safety and health, and a workstation design to better control crystalline silica exposures during casting cleaning.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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