Volume 17, Number 2 (June 2019)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

The Human Face of Artificial Intelligence

The term artificial intelligence, usually referred to as AI, first came into use in the 1956, when computer scientists began to predict that machines had the potential to be programmed to “think” and learn from experience, just like human beings. It was in the 2010s that AI became more of a reality, thanks to the availability of practically unlimited storage capacity on computers, along with faster, cheaper processing power, and a flood of big data.

Recently, many articles have been published in the popular press about various uses of AI in areas such as robotics, healthcare (e.g., to identify lung cancer from x-ray images), visual and speech recognition, and text translation.

In addition, the U.S. government’s interest in understanding the benefits and risks of AI has also increased, as highlighted in a 2018 White House Summitpdf iconexternal icon report. Recently, NIOSH established its own Artificial Intelligence Interest Group (AIIG) which held its inaugural meeting in May 2019. Through AIIG, NIOSH is bringing together individuals from across NIOSH to share information about how AI is being used, what successes and pitfalls come from using AI, and what new ways AI may be applied to solve problems relevant to the NIOSH mission.

Many researchers in NIOSH are already using AI. Some examples include

  • Using AI to analyze genomics information. The system is able to examine over 22,000 genes looking for suitable biomarkers.
  • Exploring AI image analysis and computer vision for self-driving vehicles.
  • Using AI for “natural language processing” leading to coding of health records and using AI in analyzing health informatics data.
  • Using AI for NIOSH Industry & Occupation Computerized Coding System (NIOCCS) to change text descriptions of industry and occupation into standard codes. Also using AI to work with data from kinetic sensors and video recorder input to study human factors.

Moving forward, AIIG will explore ethical issues, psychological effects, such as those from AI-caused job displacement, and the reliability of AI, as well as the implications on worker and workplace safety. AIIG is also developing a NIOSH webpage on AI to highlight on-going activities.

The advances in AI present new opportunities for progress across occupational safety and health. However, with that comes a need to understand the potential implications of AI on workers and workplaces in unanticipated ways. NIOSH is committed to leveraging the benefits of AI to improve our ability to respond to the modern world of work, while also working to ensure that the safety and health of all workers continues to be protected.


national safety month campaigh

June is National Safety Month—Join Us in Celebrating Safety

NIOSH is once again partnering with the National Safety Council (NSC) in observing June as National Safety Month. Please join us in recognizing National Safety Month and in taking steps to improve safety in our lives and the lives of those we care about. Free resources, including posters, tip sheets, and other items, are available on the National Safety Council’s websiteexternal icon. Follow NIOSH social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for our latest resources and information throughout June.

NIOSH Publishes Revised Method for Asbestos and Other Fibers by PCM

The NIOSH recently published a revised version of NIOSH Method 7400: Asbestos and Other Fibers by PCMpdf icon in the NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM). This updated method includes an alternative filter clearing procedure, an alternative mounting medium, a generic description of the phase-shift test slides, and guidance on the calculation of an expanded uncertainty budget. For more information, please contact Rosa Key-Schwartz.

Nominations Open for the 2020 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™

Nominations will be acceptedexternal iconexternal icon for the 2020 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™ until July 15. The award, given by NIOSH in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association and the Council on Accreditation of Hearing Conservationists, recognizes those who demonstrate, by example, the benefits of developing or following good hearing loss prevention practices. Safe-in-Sound Award™ winning stories are shared and showcased at special award ceremonies and in press releases disseminated to the occupational health and hearing research communities.

robotic arm

Photo by ©Getty Images

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New Podcast Available on Case Investigations of Infectious Diseases in the Workplace

NIOSH recently published a podcast for CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases series. The podcast is based on the manuscript led by Chia-ping Su, featuring coauthors from HETAB, SB, and RHD. The manuscript, entitled Case Investigations of Infectious Diseases Occurring in Workplaces, United States, 2006–2015, was published in the March 2019 issue of Emerging Infectious Disease.

r2p Activities

  • The NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research recently signed a partnership agreement with the North Carolina State University (NCSU) Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE), effective until May 2024. Both groups have mutual interests, laboratory facilities, and expertise conducting research in occupational robotics safety and health research. This partnership will help to further occupational robotics research by enabling collaborative research between NIOSH staff and ISE faculty, guest research appointments, and experiential learning opportunities for NCSU ISE students.
American Society of Safety Professionals
  • The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and NIOSH have renewed their partnership agreementexternal icon committing to collaborate over the next five years. ASSP and NIOSH will work together to advance safety research; promote workplace implementation of research results; promote best practices and professional development opportunities in the occupational safety and health profession; encourage employers to develop and utilize safety and health management programs; and other joint ventures that advance occupational safety and health outcomes worldwide. Photo (L-R): Scott Earnest, Abay Asfaw, Frank Hearl, Jennifer McNelly, and John Howard (NIOSH); Rixio Medina and James Thornton (ASSP); and Chia-Chia Chang (NIOSH) at the signing event.

NIOSH Congratulates

  • Emily J. Haas of NIOSH has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Service to America Medal – informally called a “Sammie” – in the Safety and Law Enforcement Category. She has also made it to the second round of voting for the Sammie People’s Choice Award. The next goal is the Final 4 – which will be announced on June 19. Learn more about the Sammie finalists and cast your vote for your favorites (and Emily)!external icon The Sammies, known as the “Oscars” of government service, are an opportunity to recognize federal employees who are making a significant impact in their fields, highlighting innovative, high-impact and critical work that benefits the nation.
  • Marilyn Fingerhut received the Alice Hamilton Awardexternal icon at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition. The award is presented to an outstanding woman who has been engaged in industrial hygiene and occupational health or at least 10 years and is dedicated to public and community service, social reform, and technological innovation.
  • In May Rebecca Olsavsky, Audrey Reichard, and Suzanne Marsh of NIOSH received the Center for Plain Language’s 2019 ClearMark Award of Distinctionexternal icon for the infographic EMS Providers: How to Stay Safe on the Jobpdf icon. The ClearMark awards recognize the best plain language communication written for consumers.

Monthly Features

New Communication Products

Fact Sheets
Workplace Solutions
FACE Reports
  • A 23-Year-Old Worker Pulled Into a Wood Chipper Dies on His First Day on the Job—New York A laborer hired by a tree service was pulled into a wood chipper on his first day on the job. The laborer had no tree work experience. The employer saw the laborer before the incident standing by the chipper. Less than a minute later, the employer heard the chipper and saw the laborer’s feet sticking out. The laborer was pronounced dead at the scene.
  • Owner of Farm Pinned Under Tractor While Clearing Fence Line—MichiganA farm owner died when a tractor fell onto him. While backing the tractor, it got stuck. He got off the tractor and went under the tractor to saw a tree. The tractor was in gear and the power take off (PTO) was running. After freeing the tree, the tractor fell to the ground. The owner was declared dead at the scene.
  • Construction Owner Died in Trench Wall Collapse—MichiganAn excavating company owner died in a trench collapse. The owner dug a trench and placed an excavator bucket at the top of a wall to provide support. The owner entered the excavation without shoring or a trench box. As he was standing in the trench, the excavation collapsed. Trench rescue teams recovered the owner two days later.
  • Farm Owner Died When Tractor Overturned Into Ravine—Michigan A farm land owner died when his tractor, with the rollover protection removed, overturned in a ravine. He was returning home in the rain and came across a washout on an edge of a ravine. The tractor rolled and pinned him under the tractor. The land owner was declared dead at the scene.
Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Update
  • Fire Fighter Dies After Fall From the Platform of an Elevated Tower Ladder—New York – A career fire fighter died after being ejected from the elevated platform of a tower ladder. At 1420 hours (2:20 p.m.), the department was dispatched to an apartment fire. The fire fighter operated the elevated aerial platform to the roof and extended over a parapet wall. Later, he tried to move the platform, and the brackets were caught/stuck on the wall. Once the platform released, it caused a violent movement and ejected the fire fighter. The fire fighter was transported and pronounced dead at 1518 hours (3:18 p.m.).
Health Hazard Evaluation Reports
  • 2018 Health Hazard Evaluation Program Annual Report Available – The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program is pleased to share its 2018 annual reportpdf icon. The report includes summaries of interesting projects and other highlights of 2018. We hope the report stimulates conversations about what the HHE Program is and how it makes a difference for the health and safety of employees throughout the United States.
  • Waste Anesthetic Gas Recommendations Provided to a Veterinary Hospital – HHE Program investigators evaluated isoflurane gas exposures and miscarriages reported among employees. The investigators recommended replacing passive scavenging systems with active scavenging systems, training employees on hazards within the veterinary hospital, and evaluating other potential reproductive hazards at the veterinary hospital. Read the HHE reportexternal icon to learn more.
  • Noise Recommendations Provided to a Precast Concrete Manufacturer – Finding noise overexposures among workers in all the job titles they monitored, HHE Program investigators recommended installing engineering noise controls, improving the existing hearing conservation program, audiometric testing on a regular basis, maintaining equipment, and implementing a Buy Quiet Read the HHE reportexternal icon to learn more.

NIOSH Science Blog

Federal Register Notices

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations

The noticeexternal icon was posted on April 23. Comments must be received by June 24.

Solicitation of Nominations for Appointment to the World Trade Center Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee (STAC)
The noticeexternal icon was posted on May 24. Comments must be received by June 28.

Mesothelioma Registry Feasibility; Request for Information
The noticeexternal icon was posted on April 8. Comments must be received by July 8.

Solicitation for Written Comments on an Updated Health Literacy Definition for Healthy People 2030
The noticeexternal icon was posted on June 4. Comments must be received by August 5.

Solicitation for Written Comments on an Updated Health Literacy Definition for Healthy People 2030
The noticeexternal icon was posted on June 4. Comments must be received by August 5.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

Webinar Recording Now Available
The NORA Respiratory Health Cross-Sector Council co-hosted the webinar, “Working safely with natural and engineered stone products: Controlling worker exposure to silica dust during countertop manufacturing, finishing, and installation.” The webinar describes the dangers of silica exposure, employer requirements to comply with OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule, and methods that employers can use to protect workers. Watch the archived webinar recording.

NORA Council Co-Chair Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
At ACTIVATE19 in February, 2019, AgSafe and Corteva Agriscience recognized Dan Hair with the AllWays Safe Agricultural Safety Lifetime Achievement Award. During his career, Dan demonstrated an overarching commitment to the development of national systems and infrastructure that allows for the sharing of ideas, tools, and resources focused on agricultural safety. He served in a variety of industry leadership capacities, most notably as member and Chair of the NIOSH NORA Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry Sector Council, and the Agricultural Safety and Health Council of America.

New NORA Video Series on Work-related COPD
Faces of Work-related COPDexternal icon is an impact video series that is part of a NORA Respiratory Health Cross-Sector Council initiative. The series consist of four short videos that include a physician explaining what the disease is and interviews with patients diagnosed with work-related COPD who discuss work exposures, their quality of life having the disease, and ways to minimize the risks of getting the disease.

News from Our Partners

Congratulations to NIOSH Extramural Researcher Dr. Deborah Reed
NIOSH grantee Deborah Reed, Ph.D., appeared in the recent O, The Oprah Magazine article Meet 5 Nurses Who Just Might Save the Worldexternal icon. The article featured Dr. Reed, a nurse at the University of Kentucky, for her farm dinner theater—a program funded by NIOSH through an occupational safety and health research grant. The program has received numerous awards including the American Academy of Nursing’s Edge Runner Award and the Search for Excellence in Farm Health and Safety from the National County Extension Agriculture Agent Organization.

NIOSH Education and Research Centers Ergonomic Webinar Series Continues
The NIOSH-funded Education and Research Centers (ERCs) will hold the fifth installment of their 2019 Ergonomics Webinar Seriesexternal icon on Wednesday, June 19, from 3–4 p.m. ET. The series offers free monthly webinars on occupational safety and health topics related to human factors and ergonomics. This month’s webinar will focus on the working environment inside large-herd dairy milking parlors and contributing factors to the development of musculoskeletal disorders. The presenters are Dr. David I. Douphrate of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Dr. Nate Fethke of the University of Iowa.

Child Agricultural Injury Prevention Workshop
A national workshop on childhood agricultural safety is happening in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 23–24. The Child Agricultural Injury Prevention Workshopexternal icon targets those working in or with the agriculture industry and focuses on child injury prevention strategies. The conference is being hosted by three NIOSH-funded Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health at the National Farm Medicine Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and University of Iowa.

TB campaign

Updated TB Screening, Testing, and Treatment Recommendations for Health Care Personnel
CDC and the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association recently published Tuberculosis Screening, Testing, and Treatment of U.S. Health Care Personnel: Recommendations from the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association and CDC, 2019 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Visit the CDC Tuberculosis Elimination webpage for additional information.

Webinars, Conferences & Events

Call for Manuscript Submissions

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Special Edition
Deadline for manuscript submissionexternal icon is January 31, 2020.

Upcoming Webinars

Understanding Total Worker Health: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going
Join us on Thursday, June 20, at 12:00 p.m. ET, for this TWH webinar. Whether you are looking for a refresher on the basics of TWH principles or hoping to learn about it for the first time, this webinar will feature NIOSH researchers and practitioners moving the science and practice of TWH forward. Dr. Sara Tamers, CAPT Mary O’Connor, and Chia-Chia Chang will explore the evolution of the TWH concept, current research, and practical examples of applying TWH approaches in organizations. Free continuing education for this event is pending.

Applying Dissemination and Implementation Science to Total Worker Health Research and Practice: What We Need to Know
Join us on Tuesday, July 2, from 1:00–2:30 p.m. ET, for this TWH webinar. Focused on the theory and practice of research dissemination and implementation in the workplace, featured speakers include Dr. Ross Brownson, Dr. Tom Cunningham, and Dr. Pamela Tinc. Free continuing education for this activity is pending.

Upcoming Conferences

BCSP Foundation Inaugural Research and Innovation Summitexternal icon
August 5–7, Indianapolis, IN

Fraternal Order of Police 64th Biennial Conference & Expoexternal icon Look for Us! Booth #800
August 12–15, New Orleans, LA

2019 National Conference on Health, Communication, Marketing & Media
August 13–15, Atlanta, GA

International Association of Firefighters Redmond Health and Safety Symposiumexternal iconLook for Us!
August 18–22, Nashville, TN

Association of Occupational Health Professionals (AOHP) in Healthcare National Conferenceexternal iconLook for Us!
September 4–7, Baltimore, MD

National Safety Council (NSC) 2019 Congress and Expoexternal icon
September 6–12, San Diego, CA

United Steelworkers of America Health and Safety Expo and Conferenceexternal iconLook for Us!
September 9–13, Pittsburgh, PA

Twenty-Fourth International Symposium on Shiftwork & Working Timeexternal icon
September 9–13, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Working Hours, Sleep & Fatigue Forum: Meeting the Needs of American Workers & Employers
September 13–14, Coeur d’Alene, ID

National Association of Occupational Health Professionals 33rd Annual National Conferenceexternal iconLook for Us!
September 15–18, Phoenix, AZ

Mid-Atlantic Safety and Health Allianceexternal iconLook for Us!
September 26, Cranberry Township, PA

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expoexternal icon
November 2–6, Philadelphia, PA

Work, Stress and Health Conference 2019external icon
November 6–9, Philadelphia, PA

7th International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Healthexternal icon
May 27–29, 2020, Durban, South Africa

XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Workexternal icon
October 4–7, 2020, Toronto, Canada

Page last reviewed: June 10, 2019