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NIOSH Program Portfolio


Prevention through Design

NIOSH Prevention through Design Sector Strategic Goals

927ZCDM (1 of 2) - Moving NIOSH Engineering Design Solutions into Practice

Start Date: 1/1/2007
End Date: 12/1/2011

Principal Investigators (PI)
Name: John Sheehy
Phone: (513) 533-8462
Name: Mike Gressel
Phone: (513) 841-4378
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: Division of Applied Research and Technology
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goals Addressed
1.3.5 , 3.1.5

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Prevention through Design

Project Description

Short Summary

One goal of the Engineering Controls Coordinated Emphasis Area is to move engineering research projects (design solutions) into practice. Too often researchers develop a new tool, process, or engineering control that can effectively be incorporated into future designs, write a paper on their achievement, and then move on to the next research topic without seeing the products of their research move into practice. This project attempts to overcome this trend by reviewing important but underused NIOSH-developed design solutions and disseminating them so that they can be put into practice. It is anticipated that the lessons learned from this activity will be helpful to other research-to-practice programs.


Although other NIOSH engineering design solutions continue to be disseminated through scientific and trade journals, presented at scientific symposia, and written as guidelines in lay language, most are not widely implemented by industry. There are likely many reasons that explain why PtD concepts that are successful in an engineering sense (i.e., they significantly reduce an OSH hazard or risk and they are practical and cost-effective) are not widely adopted in practice. However, no one has systematically examined the factors that acted as motivators or barriers to the adoption of these design solutions as well as the steps needed to diffuse a NIOSH engineering research product to the relevant industries.


Objective is to investigate how promising NIOSH-developed control technologies (engineering design solutions) can be transferred from research into practice. As part of this effort, NIOSH will investigate the economic underpinnings of these technologies, the barriers and motivators for their adoption, and will develop diffusion strategies for those engineering design solutions where the greatest opportunities exist. Specific aims include:

  • Review NIOSH developed engineering design solutions that have been demonstrated to be effective in the field for the construction, healthcare, and manufacturing industries.

  • Select four to six of the effective design solutions that are presently underused and two of the solutions that have been well adopted within their respective industries.

  • Assess motivators, barriers, information on worker acceptance, and aspects of availability for each selected design solution.

  • Develop business cases for both successfully adopted and underutilized design solutions.
  • Promote widespread implementation of underused design solutions that are supported by strong business cases by applying diffusion strategies.

Mission Relevance

It is anticipated that the lessons learned from this project will be informative as NIOSH moves more of its research products through the diffusion phase into practice in order to have the greatest impact on preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. Through this project, it will be possible to assess questions such as the importance of partnerships early in a research project to ultimate diffusion of prevention through design solutions and whether regulations are necessary to facilitate adoption of controls. The answer to these and other questions is a primary long term benefit of this project.

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