Volume 17, Number 7 (November 2019)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

It is COPD Awareness Month—Learn What COPD Is and How to Prevent It at Work

November marks National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. Over 16 million Americans suffer from this common and sometimes devastating breathing disease. People with COPD can have emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both. The lung damage caused by COPD impairs air flow in the lungs and causes breathing difficulty. Symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing or wheezing and excess phlegm, mucus, or sputum production. Shortness of breath can limit activities. In the United States, the most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. However, around 15% of all COPD cases can be attributed to exposures in the workplace.

Work-related COPD can occur in both smokers and nonsmokers. A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) noted that an estimated 24% of adults with COPD have never smoked. In addition, national surveys have shown that exposure to vapors, gas, dust, fumes, grain dust, organic dust, inorganic dust, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, diesel exhaust, environmental tobacco smoke, and chemicals increase the risk for COPD morbidity and mortality among persons who have never smoked. It is important to recognize the potential risks of occupational hazards and take steps to prevent work-related COPD. These steps include the following:

  • Identify possible hazards.
  • Eliminate hazardous processes or materials or substitute less hazardous ones.
  • Install engineering controls to reduce hazardous exposures.
  • Implement administrative controls such as work practices or policies that reduce or prevent exposures.
  • Train workers on potential workplace hazards.
  • Establish a no-smoking policy.

Diagnosis of work-related COPD is challenging. There is typically a delay of many years between first exposure to a workplace hazard and developing COPD. Workers and their physicians may not make the connection between work-related exposures (past and present) and symptoms of COPD. Once a diagnosis is made, symptomatic treatment for COPD is available. However, the condition cannot be cured.

Work-related COPD can have a drastic psychological and physical impact on those diagnosed with the disease and their families. COPD can interfere with physical activities we often take for granted, like walking up steps or playing with children or grandchildren.

Faces of Work-related COPD is a video series developed through the National Occupational Research Agenda, Respiratory Health Cross-sector Council. The video series provides information about work-related COPD and accounts from patients diagnosed with the disease. They describe their experiences, including work exposures, their quality of life having the disease, and their advice to others on minimizing the risks of getting the disease. NIOSH is also working on a new topic page, “Work-related COPD,” which will provide information for employees, employers, and healthcare professionals. Follow us on Twitter at @NIOSHbreathe or look for information in future enews pm when new webpages and communication products are available from NIOSH on this topic.

It is vital to recognize how to prevent work-related COPD and other work-related respiratory diseases. Employers, workers, health professionals, and others all have important roles to play!

Research Rounds
Inside NIOSH:Complex Factors Underlie Taxi Drivers’ Fatigued Driving

Taking a taxi, or other form of hired ride, can be a safer alternative to driving, especially if we are sleep-deprived or have consumed alcohol. But how do we know if our taxi driver is well rested? Indeed, fatigue is a common problem among taxi drivers, who often work long hours and must be available around the clock. Evidence shows that fatigue is associated with violence and motor-vehicle crashes—the leading causes of injury among taxi drivers—but the causes of driving while tired remain unclear.

To better understand injuries among taxi drivers, NIOSH investigators developed a survey asking about a wide range of work (e.g., shift and taxi driving tenure) and social (e.g., demographics and safety climate) factors. They administered the 30-minute survey in 2015 to about 1,000 taxi drivers, who were nearly equally divided between two U.S. cities in the Southwest and West. Most participants were men between the ages of 35–54 years, and all were licensed taxi drivers.

Most of the drivers reported driving while tired, according to the survey results published in the Journal of Safety Researchexternal icon. Some risk factors for driving while tired, common to both cities, included more miles driven per week and high job demands (e.g., feeling rushed). However, differences between the cities emerged. More western than southwestern drivers reported driving while tired and having difficulty in driving due to tiredness or fatigue and nodding off. Among the southwestern drivers, there were many factors associated with driving tired, like previous passenger violence (stress), negative safety climate, and tenure with company. Overall, the findings underscore the importance of developing educational resources that include a comprehensive fatigue management approach accessible to the full breadth of taxi and ride-source drivers and the companies they represent.

More information is available:

Outside NIOSH:Training Tool Addresses Pesticide Exposure and Heat Illness in Farmworkers

Exposure to pesticides and extreme heat are leading causes of work-related illness among farmworkers, who are mostly Mexican immigrants. Recent revisions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Worker Protection Standard focused on pesticide-exposure training, along with growing concern over heat illness in farmworkers, prompted a study at Florida State University in collaboration with the University of Florida. Together, they developed and tested a new safety education tool.

Titled PISCA, the tool consists of one lesson to reduce pesticide exposure and one lesson to reduce heat-related illness among Latino farmworkers. Delivered in Spanish, the lessons accommodate cultural beliefs and generally low levels of education among these workers. The pesticide lesson now meets the EPA certification under the revised Worker Protection Standard.

The NIOSH-supported researchers surveyed farmworkers before and after the lessons between March 26, 2017, and August 19, 2017, at nine safety-education events in Southeast Georgia. Study participants were 127 Latino farmworkers, with nearly 50% receiving the pesticide lesson and the rest receiving the heat-related illness lesson. Most participants were male and aged 33 years on average. The two different lessons allowed the researchers to account for the “placebo” effect on test scores that can occur with any safety training, even if unrelated to the topic being tested.

Pesticide-safety knowledge improved after both lessons, according to the study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicineexternal icon. Farmworkers in the pesticide lesson reported increased intention to use behaviors that reduced pesticide exposure, but those in the heat-related illness lesson decreased in this area. Both knowledge and intention to prevent heat-related illness increased more among farmworkers in the heat-illness lesson than those in the pesticide lesson. While the current findings are promising, the researchers will continue to investigate through two more phases of this study.

More information is available:

Clean and healthy lungs

Illustration of healthy lungs. Photo by ©Thinkstock.

NIOSH eNews is Brought to You By:

John Howard, M.D., Director
Christina Spring, Editor in Chief

Managing Editor
Tanya Headley

Section Editors
Anne Blank, Research Rounds
Kiana Harper, Monthly Features

Contributing Editors
Sarah Mitchell
Donjanea Williams

Copy Editor
Cheryl Hamilton

Technical Support
Steve Leonard, Technical Lead
Tonya White, Web Developer

email_03Sign up for NIOSH eNews

To receive the NIOSH eNews email newsletter, enter your email address:


Artificial Intelligence (AI) Crowdsourcing Competition Is OPEN!
NIOSH kicked off its first AI crowdsourcing competition last week! Do you know someone who is looking to put their programming skills to the test? Please share this email with them! Who knows—a colleague, friend, or family member of yours could provide the winning natural language processing model to help us automate the classification of worker injury records! Monetary prizes will be awarded to the top five competitors. The competition ends on November 21. To learn more, visit the CDC Text Classification Marathonexternal icon challenge overview.

Announcing Pilot Course: Disaster-related Exposure Assessment and Monitoring (DREAM)
This 4-day training course provides knowledge and experience in assessing, monitoring, and tracking health effects among emergency responders and community members before, during, and after a disaster. These effects can occur from exposures to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive, along with other hazards. The course will be held December 16–19 at the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama. Learn more or register here.

Business man talking with taxi driver

Photo by ©Aidon/Getty Images

NIOSH Fast Facts: How Taxi Drivers Can Prevent Robbery and Violence
The most serious workplace violence issues facing taxi drivers are homicide and physical assaults, which are often related to a robbery. Violence is often a leading cause of taxi driver deaths, along with motor vehicle crashes. View NIOSH Fast Factsexternal icon for strategies to prevent or reduce the likelihood of violence during a shift.



Monthly Features

New Communication Products & Reports

FACE Report

Fact Sheet

Health Hazard Evaluation Reports


NIOSH Science Blog

Federal Register Notice

Mine Safety and Health Research Advisory Committee (MSHRAC)
The noticeexternal icon was posted on October 4. The meeting will be held on November 13 and 14.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

Upcoming NORA Wholesale and Retail Trade Council Meeting
Wholesale and Retail Trade is holding a NORA Sector Council meeting on Friday, December 6, at 3:30 p.m. (ET). If you have any questions or would like to participate, please contact Adrienne Eastlake or Debbie Hornback.

Upcoming NORA Public Safety Council Meeting
Public safety is holding a NORA Sector Council meeting on Monday November 18, from 2–5 p.m. (ET). The meeting will focus on issues faced by EMS workers. An update on the Council’s partnership support for the University of Colorado’s Opioid Safety Campaign will be provided by the university. If you have any questions or would like to participate, please contact Susan Moore.

New Safety Climate Assessment Tool for Construction Companies
The NORA Construction Sector Council Safety Culture/Safety Climate workgroup held a workshop with CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and NIOSH, where they identified eight safety climate factors. Since then, CWPR and researchers at Washington State University partnered to develop the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT)external icon. The S-CAT is a free online tool that provides construction companies of any size the opportunity to assess their organizational and job site safety climate. Users respond to 37 separate items across those eight safety climate factors. Read more about it in a recent NIOSH Science blog .

News from Our Partners

Collecting Industry and Occupation Data: A Training Guide for Hospital Staff
The New Hampshire Occupational Health Surveillance Program, a NIOSH-supported State Surveillance Program, developed a trainingexternal icon to help medical staff improve their collection of hospital patients’ industry and occupational information. These data are critical in treating and preventing workplace exposures. The online training meets the National Cancer Registry Association requirements for one credit education unit.

OSHA Releases New Video on Inspection Process and Procedures
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new video detailing their general inspection process and the reasons for inspections. The video also highlights the agency’s free On-site Consultation Programexternal icon for small- and medium-sized employers, along with OSHA Training Institute Education Centerexternal icon training courses designed for workers, employers, and managers. Learn more about the OSHA inspection process, trainings, and consultation programs by watching the video in English or Spanish.

New Data Report on Trends in Construction Related to Musculoskeletal Disorders
CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training recently released a Quarterly Data Report (QDR)pdf iconexternal icon examining trends in work- and nonwork-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are soft-tissue injuries caused by exposure to repetitive or sudden motions, forces, and awkward positions. The report shows a sharp decrease in work-related MSDs reported by employers, while MSDs self-reported by workers remain flat.

Highlights of Research Findings on Silica Dust Reduction and Mortality of Older Workers in Construction
CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training has published key findings highlighting two research studies:

  • These key findingspdf iconexternal icon focus on the publication Effect of Hollow Bit Local Exhaust Ventilation on Respirable Quartz Dust Concentrations During Concrete Drilling.
  • These key findingspdf iconexternal icon summarize a study entitled Mortality of Older Construction and Craft Workers Employed at Department of Energy Nuclear Sites: Follow‐up Through 2016. In October, CPWR held a webinar on this project. An archived recording of the event is available hereexternal icon.

University of North Alabama Ranked Second Best Value in Occupational Safety and Health Programs
Value Colleges rankedexternal icon the University of North Alabama (UNA) as having the second best value occupational safety and health degree (OSH) program in the nation in 2019. NIOSH supports UNA’s Industrial Hygiene Program through a Training Project Grant. Each year, Value Colleges—an organization that provides information on college cost and programming—releases a list of the top 25 OSH degree programs in the United States.

New Toolkits Available on Opioids and Fatigue at Work
The National Safety Council (NSC) has developed free resources to help safety professionals, supervisors, HR professionals, and workers learn more about opioids and fatigue, and how to address them in the workplace. These toolkits can help employers understand the deep impact both fatigue and opioids have on their workforce and how they can help mitigate and manage these issues to keep employees safer on and off the job. The new Fatigue at Work Employer Toolkitexternal icon is a tool that can help employers develop a fatigue risk management system based on the latest research and best practices. The Opioids at Work Employer Toolkitexternal icon addresses the workplace implications of opioids from multiple angles.

Webinars, Conferences & Events

Call for Abstracts

XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work
Deadline for abstractsexternal icon is December 15.

Call for Manuscripts

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

Call for Multimedia Submissions

International Media Festival for Prevention
Deadline for entriesexternal icon is February 29, 2020.

Call for Student Presentations and Student Posters

AIHce EXP 2020
Deadline for submissionsexternal icon is March 16, 2020

Upcoming Webinars

2019 Ergonomics Webinar Series: A Patient Handling Story: From Patient Migration to Repositioningexternal icon
November 20, 3–4 p.m. (ET).

Working Hours, Sleep and Fatigue Webinar Series: Practical Considerations for Quantifying Fatigue and Identifying Fatigue Risk in Workforce Populations
November 13, 2– 3:30 pm (ET)

Upcoming Conferences

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

International Association of Fire Chiefs, Volunteer & Combination Officers Section (VCOS) Symposiumexternal icon
November 12–15, Clearwater Beach, FL

Midwest Rural Agricultural Safety and Healthexternal icon
November 13–14, Marshalltown, IA

30th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conferenceexternal icon
April 20–24, 2020, Hilton Head Island, SC

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

AIHce EXP 2020external icon
June 1-3, 2020, Atlanta, GA

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

International Media Festival for Preventionexternal icon
October 4–7, 2020, Toronto, Canada

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at NIOSH Conferences and Events.

Page last reviewed: November 4, 2019