Division of Safety Research (DSR)

hard hat


The Division of Safety Research (DSR) works to address the safety issues of the 21st century workplace, and is the focal point for traumatic injury research at NIOSH. Through our research we identify, reduce, and prevent work-related injuries and deaths across all industries. Our research programs are rooted in a public health approach, which includes:

  • Injury data collection and analysis
  • Field investigations
  • Analytic epidemiology
  • Protective technology
  • Safety engineering


DSR uses a number of fatal and non-fatal injury surveillance systems. These data surveillance systems allow us to prioritize research needs, target prevention efforts, and monitor work-related injury and death trends.

Surveillance Systems:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries: This system provides detailed analyses and interpretation of occupational injury deaths occurring since 1992.
  • National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS-Work): This system includes occupational injury and illness data of workers treated in hospital emergency departments. This system was developed in collaboration with the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
    • Work-Related Injury Statistics Query System (Work-RISQS): This system provides an interactive query tool to get estimates for the number and rate of non-fatal occupational injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. Data in this system comes from NEISS-Work.

Field Research

DSR’s descriptive and analytic epidemiology programs aim to determine causes and risk factors for work-related injuries, and evaluate the efficacy of interventions through field investigations and studies. To do this, researchers investigate some worker deaths, and work with industry partners to evaluate best practice solutions and emerging technologies to prevent work-related injuries.

Our recent field research includes:

  • Preventing violence to taxicab drivers, healthcare workers, and convenience store employees
  • Evaluating an in-vehicle monitoring system for reducing truck driver motor vehicle crashes
  • Preventing slips, trips, and falls among food service workers

Lab Research

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has many research labs. DSR uses a number of these labs to conduct traumatic occupational injury research in a safe and controlled environment. Each lab is equipped with state-of-the art technology.

Our recent lab research focuses on:

  • Fall prevention and protection
  • Anthropometry (the study of workers’ sizes and shapes) and digital human modeling for improving protective equipment and workspace design
  • Technology research and development for high risk occupations (e.g., construction workers, emergency medical service workers, firefighters, and taxi drivers)

The labs are essential to our research program and vital to building a safe, healthy, and capable workforce. For more information about DSR’s labs, see our Traumatic Occupational Injury Research Labs brochure.

Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program

Every day about 12-13 U.S. workers die from injury on the job. The Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program conducts investigations at worksites to identify factors that contribute to fatal injuries. Fatality investigation reports and recommendations for preventing similar deaths are available to employers and workers as well as the public. Fatality investigation reports are available for a variety of circumstances, including: machinery, foreign born workers, energy production, construction falls, and other types of workplace deaths.

State FACE Programs

Through cooperative agreements, seven states participate in NIOSH’s FACE Program. States participating in the FACE Program include: California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington. State FACE Programs also conduct investigations and identify factors related to worksite deaths and develop recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP)

Each year about 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty. To address these deaths, in 1998 NIOSH started the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP). The FFFIPP conducts investigations of fire fighter line-of-duty deaths and develops recommendations to prevent injuries and deaths. The fatality investigation reports and recommendations, along with other fire fighter safety resources are available to the fire service community as well as the public.

Center for Motor Vehicle Safety

The Center for Motor Vehicle Safety (CMVS) is the focal point for research and prevention of motor vehicle crashes, the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. The CMVS’s researchers and partners respond to emerging issues and provide research-based guidance to those who work in or near motor vehicles. The Center’s work includes:

  • Conducting research to provide recommendations to prevent crashes and injuries on all potential risk factors (e.g., restraints, fatigue, vehicle design, employer policies)
  • Communicating prevention information to employers and workers
  • Participating on standards committees to develop safer work vehicles and road safety management practices
  • Building partnerships with employer associations, research organizations associations, government and non-government organizations, standards organizations, labor organizations, trade associations, and manufacturers

Center for Occupational Robotics Research

NIOSH established the Center for Occupational Robotics Research in September 2017 to proactively respond to dramatic increases in occupational robots and advances in their capabilities.  The Center works in partnership with academic researchers, trade associations, robotics manufacturers, employers using robotics technology, labor organizations and other federal agencies to:

  • Monitor trends in injuries associated with robotics technologies
  • Evaluate robotics technologies as sources of, and interventions for, workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Establish risk profiles of robotic workplaces
  • Identify research needs and conduct research to improve the safety, health, and wellbeing of humans working with robots and robotics technologies
  • Support the development and adoption of consensus safety standards
  • Develop and communicate best practices, guidance and training for safe interactions between human workers and robots/robotics technology.

State Surveillance Program

Work-related injuries and illnesses can be prevented, and successful approaches to making workplaces safer and healthier begin with having the data necessary to understand the problem. As part of its mission to prevent injuries, illness, and caused by hazards in the workplace, the NIOSH has established surveillance programs intended to assess the extent and severity (i.e., burden) of workplace injury and illness, to identify workers and occupations at greatest risk, to develop research and prevention priorities, and to measure the effectiveness of prevention activities. States have a central role in public health surveillance because they are uniquely positioned to utilize state-specific data sources and/or agreements for occupational health (OH) surveillance, and integrate surveillance with intervention and prevention activities as well as program evaluation. Visit the State Surveillance Program page.

NIOSH Division of Safety Research (DSR) Fact Sheet DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2018-138
Page last reviewed: December 9, 2019