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NIOSH Program Portfolio

 

Manufacturing

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

9278554 - Risk Communication and Evaluation of Worker Notification

Start Date: 10/1/1988
End Date: 9/30/2010

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Everett Lehman
Phone: 513-841-4391
E-mail: exl7@cdc.gov
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DSHEFS
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed
9.0

Secondary Goal Addressed
None


Attributed to Manufacturing
100%

Project Description

Short Summary

Worker Notification and its evaluation are ongoing NIOSH program activities which provide occupational health risk information to workers, their families, and other stakeholders. The program is routinely evaluated for effectiveness and impact on NIOSH research subjects. Since the practice of worker notification began at NIOSH during the early 1980's, more than 100,000 individual letter notifications have been mailed to workers included in nearly 80 different studies. For four additional studies, study results were posted in workplaces and labor union offices. In addition, two intervention evaluation studies have been completed, one on the long-term impact of worker notification among a cohort of high risk chemical workers; the other on effectiveness of worker notification messages and materials among a cohort of females currently working in dry cleaning shops.



Description

Worker Notification and other risk communication activities are ongoing projects which primarily inform subjects of NIOSH epidemiologic studies of the overall study findings, and evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the notifications among study subjects, concerning their risks of workplace exposures. The worker notification program has historically consisted of individual notification projects related to specific epidemiologic studies or studies with epidemiological components. Most notifications consist of individual letters to workers, with enclosures describing the purpose, methodology, overall study results, other sources of health information for the worker, and recommendations to workers for protecting their health and mitigating risks. The written materials not only describe research study findings concerning risk for disease or illness, and report information derived from other studies focusing on the same exposures, but also share information about protecting health (e.g., medical screening, routine use of personal protective equipment, smoking cessation, etc.), and mitigating workplace risks. The notification materials are designed to be visually appealing and are written in audience appropriate language. All notifications are subject to tripartite review by NIOSH researchers, the appropriate companies involved in the studies, and labor unions (if any), prior to mailing. During the last several years the number of traditional worker notification efforts have diminished, while efforts in communicating other types of studies (e.g. – exposure assessment, emerging occupational health issues) has increased. The development and maintenance of website topic pages is a significantly increasing workload as workers increasingly utilize this method to obtain risk and health information. As new technologies increase and workers change their information-seeking habits, an evaluation of the traditional worker communication methodology becomes necessary in order to ensure that we are reaching the workers in an effective way with an effective message.



Objectives

The primary objective of worker notification program is to provide useful information to workers and their families for the purpose of protecting workers' health and potentially reducing their occupational health risks. Worker notification is considered a method of secondary disease intervention and although it often consists of a one time written communication to study subjects, the written materials contain important occupational risk information useful to workers.

Evaluating worker communications is a key component of the worker notification program, because there is little research on the impact and effectiveness of occupational health communication. Efforts to comply with the ethical responsibility to report what we know must be supported by sound evaluation of how these communications impact workers. Small-scale evaluation of the effectiveness and impact of the current worker notification program and its written materials will continue to be conducted via focus group discussions with workers and other stakeholders, and through assessment of reader response cards returned from workers. The more comprehensive process and program evaluation that is now under development will provide future program direction for the worker notification program. It is anticipated that the traditional method of direct mail to workers will need to be modified due to new technology and the improved methods used to communicate health information (websites, blogs, utilization of trusted organizations). The new evaluation will systematically critique current methods used and will test new methods for effectiveness.



Mission Relevance

Worker Notification and its evaluation are ongoing NIOSH program activities which provide occupational health risk information to workers, their families, and other stakeholders. The purpose of worker notification is to inform NIOSH research subjects of epidemiologic studies about the overall findings of the studies. Worker notification efforts are also used to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the ongoing notification methods and materials by ascertaining whether workers are being adequately and properly notified. Worker notification and evaluation are consistent with contemporary ethics regarding risk communication. The Worker Notification Program was initiated in response to concerns by citizen groups, unions, and Congress that workers included in studies of exposures should be informed of the results of the studies (e.g., informed of their risk for illness and disease). Health communication, of which worker notification is a component, plays a critical role in the prevention of occupational injury and disease. The major public health benefit of worker notification is that informed workers may take steps today that lead to intervention only if the program is based on proven methods of effective risk communication. Notifying workers of study results has been a NIOSH policy since 1988. The current notification processes were established in the 1995 modification to the policy.

Cross Sector Programs -Cancer, Reproductive, Cardiovascular, Neurologic and Renal Diseases. The Notification program meets Intermediate Goal -1.2.3: Enhance the relevance and utility of interventions and recommendations by transferring research findings, technologies, and information into practice by publishing in technical and trade journals, developing methods for inclusion into NMAM or similar collections, and developing workplace or trade documents.

Other Cross-Sector Programs: Communications and Information Dissemination. The Notification program meets Intermediate Goal 4.2: Risk communication and evaluation of worker notification.



Page last updated: June 3, 2011
Page last reviewed: May 23, 2011
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Office of the Director

 

NIOSH Program:

Manufacturing