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NIOSH Program Portfolio


Prevention through Design

NIOSH Prevention through Design Sector Strategic Goals

927ZBET (2 of 2) - Diffusing PtD Principles through Engineering Textbooks

Start Date: 1/1/2007
End Date: 12/1/2010

Principal Investigators (PI)
Name: Richard Rinehart
Name: Donna S. Heidel
Phone: (513) 533-8302
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: Division of Education and Information
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Prevention through Design

Project Description

Short Summary

A longstanding goal in the occupational safety and health community is to find ways to interject concepts of occupational safety and health into engineering school curricula so new graduates can apply this knowledge to future designs. This project works with the editor for aerospace, civil, chemical and industrial engineering textbooks at John Wiley & Sons to increase the coverage of safety and health topics in Wiley publications. Wiley is one of the largest publishers of engineering textbooks in the United States. This is a unique opportunity to affect engineering curricula on a broad scale, as it has the potential to be replicated.


Most educational programs for engineers today do not teach the tools and techniques needed for PtD. This was identified as a long-term barrier to mainstreaming PtD principles in practice. NIOSH initiated Project SHAPE (Safety and Health Awareness for Preventive Engineering) in the 1980s to create awareness in the engineering profession of the importance of OSH technical issues in all engineering projects. As a result, a series of nine instruction modules are available on the NIOSH website ( While the project had considerable achievements, the activity ended in the early 1990s and its products have not been widely adopted by engineering education programs.

In 1995, the Institute for Safety Through Design (ISTD) recognized the contributions by Project SHAPE and the continued lack of OSH knowledge by engineering students. The ISTD hosted a symposium in 1996 that promoted dialogue among educators, labor, business, and industry for addressing two key questions: (1) What is the OSH knowledge an engineer should have upon completion of a baccalaureate degree? (2) How can this knowledge best be delivered? The Symposium concluded that there is no room in the existing engineering curricula for stand-alone courses on OSH; changes to the curricula must be made through the existing course structure (ISTD, 1996).

There have been numerous articles on the lack of OSH in engineering school curricula and initiatives to reverse the situation, but most have worked with individual professors to incorporate OSH into their courses. While these approaches have had limited success, they have proven to be unsustainable because professors come and go and the methods used to teach OSH to engineering students were not always made permanent by engineering programs.


Objective is to demonstrate how PtD principles can be diffused to engineering school curricula by incorporating the concepts into engineering textbooks that focus on design. Specific aims include:

  • Assess the extent of coverage of PtD principles currently in selected engineering textbooks.

  • Gauge the importance, interest, and demand for PtD principles by engineering professors.

  • Incorporate PtD principles into new editions of engineering textbooks.

Mission Relevance

There are two main outcomes from this project that are relevant to PtD: (1) seven new editions of textbooks that include material on PtD principles will be published and used by engineering schools to train new students and (2) a demonstrated process will be developed to add PtD principles into engineering textbooks. Initial use of the Wiley surveys of markets will provide a baseline measure of the current importance, interest, and/or demand that engineering professors place on the incorporation of PtD principles into engineering curricula. Subsequent surveys of markets after the revised textbooks are published will provide a convenient gauge as to any change in the perceptions of the importance of PtD principles by the professors who use the textbooks. It is expected that as the project progresses, the overall perception of PtD principles and the interest/demand by professors for more PtD information in the selected textbooks will increase, as reflected in the follow-up surveys of markets.

Page last updated:June 25, 2009
Page last reviewed: May 23, 2011
Content Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Office of the Director


NIOSH Program:

Prevention through Design