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Bullard-Sherwood Research-to-Practice (r2p) Award Winners: Backgound, 2013

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Knowledge Category


  • Title: Development of the NIOSH CROPS Topic Page for the Transfer of Applied Research Knowledge

  • Authors: McKenzie Jr. E, Cantis D, Hard D, Spiker J, and Rotunda C

  • Source: Division of Safety Research (DSR)

  • Background: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Agriculture Forestry and Fishing (AFF) industry has the highest work-related fatality rate (29.7 deaths/100,000 workers) of any industry. This is approximately 8 times greater than the death rate of workers in all industries. Tractors are involved in the greatest number of deaths in the AFF industry, and tractor rollovers are the largest contributor to these deaths. Installing roll bars (rollover protective structures/ROPS) on tractors that can be retrofitted in the U.S. could reduce deaths from tractor overturns by more than 80% and injuries by more than half (53%).

  • Relevance: Currently, ROPS are not commercially available for all tractors that are able to be retrofitted. Additionally, available ROPS can be costly. In response, NIOSH developed a cost-effective ROPS (CROPS) that can be used on four tractor models, as well as on older wheeled tractors for which a commercial product is not available. The four tractor models suitable for CROPS account for approximately 33% of farm tractors that do not currently have ROPS, and each CROPS model was successfully tested in accordance with industry standard SAE J2194 of the Society for Automotive Engineers.

    NIOSH collaborated with the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH) and the Virginia Farm Bureau to promote CROPS to farm communities in four states—New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia. Additionally, NIOSH developed a Web topic page to disseminate the culmination of over 10 years of research in this area. The webpage features testing information, technical drawings, and installation instructions for those who are interested in assembling a NIOSH-designed CROPS. Evaluation metrics show that the CROPS webpage is a destination for users. Almost 75% of visitors viewing this page did not navigate to other pages, but rather entered and exited the page directly; the average length of time a visitor stayed on the page was more than 5 minutes; and approximately 30% of visitors are getting to the page from a bookmark or saved page. Combined, these metrics are a strong indication that visitors know about the page, are intentional about viewing the page, and are finding what they are looking for. In addition to the Web topic page, other dissemination efforts used to promote the CROPS and inform the farm community of its availability for public use include social media channels, partners, and direct person-to-person communication.

More information about CROPS and other agriculture-related safety and health information can be found at:

Intervention Category


  • Title: Enhancing the Performance of Fire Fighter Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Face Piece Lenses

  • Authors: Merinar T, Bowyer M, Lutz V, Miles S, Loflin M, Romano N, Tarley J, Sines J, Wertman S, Pouchott T, Haskell B, Szalajda J, Hales T, Baldwin T, Berardinelli Jr. S, and Ahlers H

  • Source: Division of Safety Research (DSR)

  • Background: Each year on average 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty. In 1998, NIOSH initiated its Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) as a result of requests from the fire service to Congress to address the national problem of fire fighter deaths and injuries. Since its inception, the program has solicited implementation recommendations from fire service organizations. In 2007, one key stakeholder group recommended that NIOSH develop a means to "collect, analyze, and disseminate information regarding failures or difficulties involving personal protective equipment (PPE)."

    Although fire fighters wear PPE, which allows them to work in extreme temperatures and fire laden atmospheres, about 20 still die annually fighting fires specifically in commercial and residential structures. The protective ensemble worn by fire fighters includes a NIOSH-certified self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which provides respiratory protection and air supply for working in oxygen deficient and toxic fire atmospheres. Air loss or the introduction of toxic gases into the SCBA system can cause fatal injury if any of its components are damaged.

  • Relevance: While investigating a fatal incident involving multiple fire fighters, a NIOSH investigator suspected that the heat-damaged SCBA face piece lenses—after being exposed to temperatures exceeding the certification test requirements set by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment—may have contributed to the deaths. NFPA 1981, Standard on open-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus for emergency services establishes the protective level of the SCBA and requires the face piece lens to be tested at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is 300 degrees lower than what is required for the rest of the fire fighter’s protective ensemble.

    Further evaluation of cases similar to the above incident, where fire fighters died while operating inside burning structures, along with experience, expertise, medical reports, discussions with fire service colleagues, and inspections of face pieces that had been damaged during operations, led NIOSH to notify NFPA of these findings related to the thermal degradation of SCBA face piece lenses.

    This in turn led to a series of discussions between NIOSH, NFPA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Fire Protection Research Foundation, and the U.S. Fire Administration about the potential for SCBA face piece lenses to be damaged during fire fighting. NIST studied the effect of fire conditions on SCBA face piece lenses, resulting in a recommendation to NFPA to upgrade the SCBA performance standard to equal the protection of the rest of the fire fighter protective ensemble.

    In July 2012 the NFPA released an Alert indicating that SCBA face piece lenses may undergo thermal degradation when exposed to intense heat. Additionally, NFPA approved an additional convective heat and flame test at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for the SCBA face piece lens and a specific radiant heat test for the lens. This will better ensure the protection provided by the face piece lenses are consistent with other components of the protective ensemble. These tests have been incorporated into the 2013 edition of NFPA 1981, and now SCBAs marketed after January 1, 2013 must comply with the more stringent test criteria. All fire fighting SCBAs sold in the U.S. must comply with NFPA 1981 to obtain NIOSH certification.

More information about NIOSH’s Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, its respirator certification program, or other PPE-related topics can be found at:

Technology Category


  • Title: Field Attenuation Measurement for Hearing Protection Devices

  • Authors: Murphy W, Stephenson M, Byrne D, and Themann C

  • Source: Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART)

  • Background: Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to noise levels at work that are hazardous to their hearing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hearing loss is the 2nd most common occupational illness in America. Studies have shown that incorrect fit and inconsistent use of hearing protection can be causally related to a worker’s overexposure to hazardous noise. Additionally, it has been argued that failure to properly fit and use hearing protectors is likely the leading cause of work-related noise-induced hearing loss. Eliminating the noise hazard altogether is the best approach to deal with this issue, however, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn its proposal to emphasize the use of noise controls to reduce worker exposure. Therefore, using hearing protection is the only available option for many workers, making it critical to improve the performance of hearing protectors.

  • Relevance: Although numerous studies have demonstrated training can effectively teach workers to properly fit and use hearing protection devices (HPDs), there has been no way to determine the amount of attenuation (i.e., reduction in the intensity of the sound) an individual actually receives. Laboratory tests of HPD performance bear little relationship to the protection an individual receives in the workplace. NIOSH determined that the average worker receives less than half of the labeled sound attenuation when earplugs are worn as they typically are in the workplace. Even when an earplug is fully inserted into the ear canal, workers’ attenuations can vary over a wide range due to differences in ear canal shape. Individual fit testing is the only means to determine how well an HPD will perform with an individual.

    NIOSH developed the NIOSH HPD Well-Fit™ system, which has made it both possible and practical to determine how much protection a given individual will receive from a given hearing protector. A worker’s noise exposure can now be quantified rather than inferred from noise dosimetry and estimated earplug attenuation. The potential impact of this capability on worker hearing health is extremely significant.

    The NIOSH HPD Well-Fit™ system is relatively inexpensive, can be used with any earplug, and can provide an outcome measurement in 5-10 minutes (including training). Additionally, it enables the end user to select the desired level of accuracy based on the needs of a given exposure condition, and uses a method that expedites the collection of repeat measurements on a given worker which means re-training can be conducted in 2-5 minutes if it becomes necessary. The HPD Well-Fit™ system has made it feasible to train a worker to mastery on how to use any earplug, and how to fit it properly.

    This technology has taken fit-testing from an arcane laboratory procedure to an economical, practical tool that can be readily incorporated into even the most modest hearing conservation program. The U.S. Army recently completed a successful field test at 5 installations, and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force have entered into discussions with NIOSH regarding service-wide adoption of the HPD Well-Fit™ system. The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation adopted it for use in their hearing conservation program, and most recently the U.S. Geological Survey initiated steps to field test it. Additionally, the HPD Well-Fit™ was licensed in 2012 and is now commercially available, which represents a culmination of 10 years of dedicated efforts by NIOSH scientists and many partners to advance hearing loss prevention, as well as develop tools and promote the importance of practical, reliable fit-testing in the workplace. NIOSH continues to partner with many external stakeholders to further expand the usefulness of the HPD Well-Fit™ system as a tool for preventing occupational hearing loss.

More information about the HPD Well-Fit™ system, occupationally-induced hearing loss, or hearing loss prevention efforts at NIOSH can be found at:

  • Page last reviewed: April 26, 2013
  • Page last updated: May 9, 2013
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