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hazard signs, worker avoiding falling box

Outputs: Research to Practice

Historically, NIOSH has been a leader in applying research into workplace solutions that reduce injury and illness. Research to Practice (r2p ) is a NIOSH initiative focused on the transfer and translation of research findings, technologies, and information into highly effective prevention practices and products that are adopted in the workplace.

The goal of Research to Practice is to increase workplace use of effective NIOSH and NIOSH-funded research findings. NIOSH continues to work with our partners to focus research on ways to develop effective products, translate research findings into practice, target dissemination efforts, and evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of these efforts in improving worker safety and health.

NIOSH prevention information is most readily found in publications such as NIOSH Alerts, Current Intelligence Bulletins, Workplace Solutions, Fact Sheets, Criteria Documents, and other publications. If you are looking for prevention information for a particular problem area, you may find the appropriate publications listed on NIOSH Traumatic Occupational Injury Topics . If a topic page on the problem area does not exist, another way to search for appropriate information is to scan the list of publications that address traumatic occupational injuries. Finally, the investigative reports conducted as part of the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program each have preventive recommendations based on the investigation of specific fatal incidents.

Selected Research-to-Practice Efforts Addressing Traumatic Injury Problems

Enhancing the harness fit to worker population

Falls from height are the leading cause of death in the construction industry; in 2004, 433 American construction workers died due to falls-from-height incidents. In addition, more than 20,950 construction workers were disabled in work-related falls from heights in the same year. Fall-arrest harnesses provide the last line of defense to the 6.3 million construction workers in areas where fall-from-height hazards cannot be completely eliminated. Yet, comparatively little is known about the fit of these important safety devices for construction workers. The NIOSH Harness Research team has developed scientific theories to quantify human torso shape and size. Using these theories, the research team has further derived and tested practical harness design criteria to advance our knowledge about reducing the risk of injury that results from poor harness-user interface, improper size selection, or the failure to don the harness properly. The team has also worked with the harness manufacturing industry to formulate harness-sizing schemes and harness designs for various populations, especially women and minorities, to assure the required level of protection, productivity, and comfort of harnesses to workers. Several professional organizations and standards committees have testified, in various forms, to the urgent need for this line of Research to Practice effort. Two leading harness manufacturers in the United States have actively participated in the study with the NIOSH research team and are using the research results to modify their current harness designs and to develop the next-generation harnesses. A national committee on personal equipment for protection against falls has also expressed interest in incorporating the study results to possibly establish national harness-sizing standards.

NIOSH Fall Prevention Guardrail System

Falls from elevations is the primary cause of fatalities in the U.S. construction industry, especially falls from roofs, unprotected edges, and through unprotected roof and floor holes and skylights. During the years 2004 through 2010, a total of 7,429 fatalities occurred in the U.S. construction industry (annual average of 1,061) according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injury database, which is maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, the 7-year total of fatalities that occurred by falling at a construction site was 2,598 (annual average of 371), which represents a total of 35.0% of all construction-related fatalities for the 7-year period. Fatalities caused by falling from roof edges, and through roof and floor holes and skylights amounted to a 7-year total of 951 (annual average of 136) which is 36.6% of all fatal falls that occurred in construction during those 7 years. These situations, workers falling from roof edges and through holes and skylights, can be addressed with a guardrail system to prevent falls to a lower level.

Researchers with the Division of Safety Research designed, developed, and patented a multifunctional guardrail system that can be adapted to flat and vertical surfaces, and to seven different roof slopes for residential, industrial, and commercial construction job sites. Feedback from workers who have used the guardrail system during residential construction activities indicated their acceptance of the system. NIOSH is currently negotiating a licensing agreement with a safety products company to bring this research product to market.

Partnering with Industry to Build Safe EMS Work Environments

“A 2002 study of Bureau of Labor Statistics data estimated that EMS personnel in the United States have an annual fatality rate from all causes of 12.7 per 100,000; more than three times the national fatal occupational injury rate of 4.0/100,000 workers. Although no national count of ambulance crash-related injuries exists, riding in the patient compartment was associated with greater injury severity, when compared to riding in the front seat. NIOSH and NHTSA crash investigations also show that non-use of occupant restraints which result in secondary collisions between unrestrained occupants and bulkheads, fixtures, and cabinets is the primary patient compartment injury risk.

This project is primarily focused on moving NIOSH developed knowledge to practice through the development of a series of safety standards. Initially, these standards will be presented in two documents. The performance characteristics will be housed in the GSA’s Ambulance Purchase Specification (KKK-A-1822). The validation test procedures ensuring manufacturers have met the performance requirements will be housed in the series of standards managed by the Ambulance Manufacturers Division (AMD) of the National Truck Equipment Association. Eventually, both of these documents are expected to be replaced by a new national standard under development by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NIOSH, as well as most of its partners are also members of the NFPA Committee and fully aware of and are in support of this process. Standards developed and published to date cover overhead clearance, vehicle response in a frontal crash and vehicle response in a side impact. The latter two standards are now being used as input loading in the development of new standards covering seating and occupant restraints, patient cots and restraints, equipment and cabinet mounting, and the overall structural integrity of the patient compartment.

The scope of work associated with this project has expanded greatly as a result of a pair of IAAs signed in 2010 and 2011, respectively: one between NIOSH and DHS, the other between DHS and NIST. Together, these three organizations are working diligently with industry, end users, and other government entities (GSA, NHTSA) to write, and validate through test, a series of performance standards and patient compartment “Best Practices” guidelines to substantially change the ambulance design, build, and utilization philosophy. These partnership opportunities and responsibilities have helped to reshape the goals, short and long range, for the NIOSH research team providing the NIOSH team a greater opportunity to make a significant impact on worker safety.”