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Bullard-Sherwood Research to Practice (r2p) Award Winners and Honorable Mentions: Backgound, 2006

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Knowledge Category


  • Title: Harness Design and Sizing Effectiveness
  • Authors: Hsiao H, Whisler R, Zwiener J, Guan J, Spahr J, Kau TY, Bradtmiller B, Whitestone J, Feldstein J, Wolner T, Reynolds R
  • Source: Division of Safety Research
  • Background: Each year, on average 370 American construction workers die and more than 21,000 are disabled in work-related falls from heights. Fall-arrest harnesses provide the last line of defense to the 5 million construction workers at risk for falling from heights. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Industrial Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), the International Society of Fall Protection (ISFP), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have testified in Congress about the urgent need for Research to Practice efforts in this area.
  • Relevance: This NIOSH project provides both scientific theories and practical harness design criteria to advance technologies that reduce the risk of injury resulting from poor user fit, improper size selection, or the failure to don the harness properly. It also helps the harness manufacturing industry to formulate harness-sizing schemes for different populations, and provide protection and comfort. Two leading U.S. harness manufacturers, MSA and DBI SALA, have actively participated in the NIOSH project and are using the research results to modify their current harness designs as well as to develop new harnesses. Newly developed harnesses are expected to be available in June 2006, when NIOSH, along with the two harness manufacturers, will validate the effectiveness of the new designs. Since the two harness manufacturers account for about 60% of the national market share of fall-arrest harnesses, the future adoption potential of the new harnesses and sizing systems in the construction trades is very high. Several trade associations representing women in construction, ISEA, ASSE, and the OSHA Health and Safety of Women in Construction (HASWIC) workgroup are partnering with NIOSH to further reach out to workers.

    NIOSH will continue partnering with harness manufacturers who have provided harness blueprints, critical design parameters, production procedures, and in kind services that are necessary for the development and testing of the products as they move toward commercial production. Less formal partnerships, but very important to the continued success of this effort, include working with groups such as ASSE, ISEA, ISFP, ANSI, and OSHA which provide a critical sounding board in supporting this line of research and in conveying the research effort to the construction trades. In addition, the NIOSH partnership with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) provides an opportunity for NIOSH to utilize the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometry Resource (CEASAR) database to expand research and apply results to a national population of workers.

Interventions Category


  • Title: Tell Me a Story: Why Stories are Essential to Effective Safety Training
  • Authors: Cullen ET, Wopat PF, Clough-Thomas KS
  • Source: Spokane Research Laboratory
  • Background: This report describes how NIOSH used storytelling and partnerships to create nine safety training videos for the mining industry that have become popular worldwide and won numerous national and international awards. In the 96-year history of this type of document, this is the first Report of Investigation that was produced in a glossy magazine format, in full color with many pictures. It has been discussed in many industry journals and magazines, including Professional Safety Magazine, Business & Legal Reports, US Fed News, Occupational Safety and Health, Safe Supervisor, Occupational Hazards Magazine, and Safety and Health Magazine. Nearly 1000 copies have been distributed, and it also is electronically available through the NIOSH Web site.
  • Relevance: Mining is one of the few industries with mandatory safety training requirements for workers. Although training is required, it is not possible to require that miners pay attention during training. In a series of stakeholder meetings, safety trainers shared with NIOSH their concern that training materials were either outdated or altogether missing. As many experienced miners were beginning to retire, there was concern about how to teach new miners how to work safely and productively. NIOSH created the safety training videos to address the needs of both new and experienced miners. The critical factor in the success of the videos is that they show actual miners telling their stories and what they have learned, in their own words. As a result, trainees pay attention to these credible sources of information.

    Partnerships were critical for the success of the videos created by NIOSH. The success of the project would not have been possible without the full cooperation of: the mining companies, who provided sites, equipment, and experts; the safety trainers, who provided technical advice for the creation of the stories and acted as gatekeepers to the mines; and the miners, who enthusiastically participated as actors and advisors. In addition, funding for the project was provided through the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals and the Arizona State Mine Inspector's Office (ASMI). In-kind support was provided among others by: the Mine Safety and Health Administration that provided thousands of copies of the videos; ASMI that provided the services of training staff for several weeks; the University of Idaho; and the Mining History Museum in Wallace, Idaho. The University of Texas in Austin provided support by translating one of the videos into Spanish. All videos are provided to NIOSH customers free of charge but upon request. This allows NIOSH to assess the impact of the videos.

    It turns out that interest in storytelling is not limited to the U.S. mining industry. As a result of the report, NIOSH was asked by the South African National Institute for Occupational Health to offer guidance on a project that aims to develop effective training for low-literacy miners at risk for silicosis. After reading the report, a researcher from the University of Washington's School of Public Health also asked NIOSH for guidance on a project that will use storytelling to develop effective training tools for migrant workers. In addition, NIOSH has been contacted about potential collaborations with researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Numerous requests for presentations at national and international conferences also have been received.

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Technology Category


  • Title: Engineering Controls for Hearing Loss Prevention
  • Authors: Kovalchik PG, Matetic RJ, Peterson JS
  • Source: Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
  • Background: Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the most common occupational illness in the United States. NIHL occurs across all industries but is of particular concern in the construction and mining industries where over 3.3 million workers are exposed to damaging noise levels. Approximately 50% of construction workers, 90% of coal miners, and 50% of metal and nonmetal miners experience hearing loss by the age of 50, compared to only 10% of the population that is not occupationally exposed to noise.

    In 1999, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released a revised health standard for occupational noise exposure in coal, metal, and nonmetal mines that emphasizes engineering controls as the strongest defense against excessive exposure to noise. As a result of the revised standard, a Coal Noise Partnership was formed by NIOSH that includes representatives from the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA), MSHA, the National Mining Association (NMA), and mining equipment manufacturers and suppliers. The purpose of the partnership is to reduce worker exposure to noise.

    Continuous mining machines are large underground coal cutting machines that also collect and transport the cut coal via an onboard conveyor to the back of the machine where it is loaded onto either another conveyor or a piece of mining equipment in order to be carried away. MSHA data indicates that the continuous mining machine is first among all the equipment used in underground coal mining whose operators have noise exposure to more than 100% of the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for noise set by MSHA. One of the major noise sources on a continuous mining machine is the onboard conveyor which consists of a chain with flight bars.

  • Relevance: NIOSH developed a chain conveyor for continuous mining machines with flights that are coated with a heavy duty, highly-durable plastic. NIOSH designed, developed, and tested this control in a partnership effort with labor (UMWA), industry (NMA, BCOA), manufacturers (Joy Manufacturing, Inc.), and MSHA stakeholders. The coated flight bars are very durable and provide a total noise exposure reduction of 7 dB(A) that in many cases results in exposure below the MSHA PEL for noise. Miners report that the control is indeed durable and easy to implement. MSHA also assesses the control favorably. The coated flight bar chain conveyor is currently being manufactured and sold by Joy Manufacturing, Inc., that produces over 80% of the continuous mining machines in the U.S. Currently, NIOSH is studying the control's effectiveness to reduce the noise exposure of continuous mining machine operators under a variety of conditions. In the future, the Coal Noise Partnership is planning to develop noise controls for other mining machines, thus further reducing noise exposure to the machine operators.

Honorable Mention:

  • Title: Preventing Rock Fall Fatalities During Coal Pillar Recovery
  • Authors: Mark C, Chase F, Owens J
  • Source: Pittsburgh Research Laboratory
  • Background: When coal is first mined, large pillars of coal are left to support the rock between the mine and the surface. Subsequent recovery of these pillars creates an inherently unstable situation. During 1992-2001, there were a total of 100 rock fall fatalities in U.S. coal mines. Of these, 27 occurred during pillar recovery. NIOSH found that miners in pillar recovery operations are three times as likely to be killed by a rock fall as are miners engaged in other activities. A later study found that one-third of the nation's 40,000 underground coal miners are involved in pillar recovery during the mining process. The topic has been of intense interest to the entire mining community, particularly in the central Appalachian coalfields of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and western Virginia where more than 90% of pillar recovery mining takes place.
  • Relevance: The NIOSH team that worked on this project developed the following research products to reduce the hazards of coal pillar recovery:

    • Detailed studies of demographics and injury rates (1997 and 2002)
    • The Analysis of Retreat Mining Pillar Stability (ARMPS) computer program (1997)
    • Best practices for use of Mobile Roof Supports (1997)
    • Warning lights for the Mobile Roof Supports (MRS) used for temporary roof support (2001)
    • Guidelines for sizing the final stump to prevent unplanned roof collapse (2001)
    • Guidelines for sizing panel and barrier pillars for pillar recovery under deep cover (2002)
    • Guidelines for roof bolting and identification of other risk factors for pillar recovery (2002)

    Many of these guidelines were published in the Pillar Recovery Risk Factor Checklist (2003) .

    The team transferred these results to the mining community through:

    • Distribution of more than 1000 copies of the ARMPS program at NIOSH seminars held in a variety of coalfield locations, and through NIOSH Technology News and the NIOSH mining Web site
    • Joint Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and NIOSH Preventative Roof-Rib Outreach (PROP) seminars in six locations and attended by 500 individual
    • Training sessions with all MSHA roof control personnel
    • Industry short courses for Arch Coal, Massey Energy, and Peabody Energy staff
    • Numerous conference papers and presentations
    • A joint NIOSH-MSHA article in Coal Age, the leading trade publication

    While some of these technologies were slowly being adapted, during 2000-2002 there were five fatalities from pillar recovery rock falls in southern West Virginia. NIOSH met with MSHA and the West Virginia Office of Miners' Safety, Health, and Training to discuss how to implement the technologies in the mines' official Roof Control Plans. Presently, all of the 150 retreat mines in southern West Virginia employ the ARMPS program, and many follow other pillar recovery practices suggested by NIOSH. Since research results were implemented three years ago, there have been no pillar recovery fatalities in southern West Virginia, compared with an average of one per year during the previous decade.

    NIOSH has made significant changes to the way pillar recovery is practiced throughout the U.S. Today, more than half of all pillars are recovered using MRS, and about one-third of all MRS (including 75% of all new MRS) use the NIOSH warning lights. Every mine that practices pillar recovery in southern West Virginia and Virginia use the ARMPS program. Fewer mines extract the final stump, instead leaving a support that is sized using NIOSH guidelines. More mines specify extra roof bolt support in pillar recovery sections. For this project, NIOSH worked with both the regulatory agencies and the industry to maintain credibility and keep the lines of communication open. Research products were simple, easy to use, and effective. Finally, by bringing seminars to the coalfields, NIOSH hastened the diffusion and implementation of ideas.

  • Page last reviewed: April 26, 2012
  • Page last updated: April 26, 2012
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