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Volume 17, Number 8 (December 2019)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

100 Years of the Hard Hat, 100 Years of Safety

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the invention of the hard hat. The hard hat is one of the most recognizable pieces of safety equipment in the world. Hard hats were first worn by construction workers beginning in the 1920s. Over the years, hard hats have come to symbolize the strength of the construction industry and its workers.

Hard hats are designed to protect workers from head injuries due to falling objects or overhead hazards by reducing the intensity and distributing the pressure of impacts to the head. The E.D. Bullard Company, in San Francisco, California, was the first manufacturer to develop and sell hard hats that were used by some miners and laborers. At the time, Bullard referred to their product as the “Hard Boiled®” hat. In the early 1930s, electricians in Boston, Massachusetts, also began wearing hard hats. By the mid-1930s, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began, and all workers were expected to wear hard hats [Carpenter et al. 2019].

During the ensuing 40 years, hard hats of various shapes and materials reached the market. These included hard hats made of steel, aluminum, canvas and resin, Bakelite®, and fiberglass. In each case, these hats were advertised as light, resilient, and cool while protecting the worker. In the 1960s, hard hats made of plastics such as polyethylene were sold. In the 1970s, when OSHA and NIOSH were created under the OSH Act, the use of hard hats was regulated as part of the head protection standard, and hard hat use significantly expanded [OSHA 2019]. As demand increased, more manufacturers produced hard hats, including MSA, Honeywell, 3M, and Kask [Rosenberg et al. 2010].

The hard hat has a rich history, but its design has remained fairly consistent over the decades, including a suspension system and outer shell. In recent years, safety helmets, similar to those worn in mountain climbing or ice hockey, have begun to be used on some construction sites to improve worker protections beyond that provided by the traditional hard hat. NIOSH is studying the performance and design of hard hats and safety helmets to improve overall personal protection with the hope of potentially reducing the likelihood of traumatic brain injury caused by falls and to save lives [Konda et al. 2016; Wu et al. 2017]. NIOSH researchers are also working to improve consensus standards that address hard hat performance.

For more safety and health related topics in construction go to the NIOSH Construction Safety and Health webpage.

  • Carpenter M [2019]. The evolution of the hard hat. The New York Times. October 1, 2019.
  • Konda S, Tiesman HM, Reichard AA [2016]. Fatal traumatic brain injuries in the construction industry, 2003–2010. Am J Ind Med 59(3):212–220.
  • OSHA [2019]. 29 CFR 1926.100 Head Protection. Washington DC:  U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • Rosenberg B, Levenstein C [2010]. Social factors in occupational health: a history of hard hats. New Solut 20(2):239–249.
  • Wu JZ, Pan CS, Wimer BM, Rosen CL [2017]. Finite element simulations of the head-brain responses to the top impacts of a construction helmet: effects of the neck and body mass. Proc Inst Mech Eng H 231(1):58–68.

Research Rounds
Inside NIOSH:
Information Framework Helps Inform First Responders

When a pipe in a chemical-manufacturing facility broke, a highly flammable chemical spilled out and started a fire, killing three workers and injuring several others. Following guidelines for the specific type of chemical, emergency responders not only extinguished the fire, but also evacuated approximately 2,000 residents from the surrounding area.

As this case study shows, we depend upon first responders to know how to protect us during a chemical spill or other emergency involving hazardous materials. Each emergency, however, can present a unique challenge to first responders, who may not have experience with every type of hazardous material. In these cases, information-gathering skills are critical to a quick and effective response, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Emergency Management.

During a life-threatening emergency, the difficulty lies in knowing where and how to quickly find the right information within an extensive range of emergency management and response resources. To help with this process, NIOSH researchers reviewed the most relevant resources and developed an easy-to-use framework for finding information. The resources range from printed and downloadable materials, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Emergency Response Guidebook, to computer databases and software tools, such as the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders and the Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations. In addition, hotlines and other telephone services, such as CDC-INFO (CDC’s National Contact Center) and the Chemical Transportation Emergency Center, are important information sources.

The framework covers the four phases of emergency response: 1) preparedness, 2) initial and ongoing response, 3) recovery, and 4) mitigation, or easing, of the emergency. For each information resource, the framework lists its source, description, and primary emergency-management phase. In addition, the researchers show the framework in action by applying it to two case studies, including the one described above.

More information is available: NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources.

Outside NIOSH:
Manufacturing Workers With Eldercare Demands Report More Stress

Manufacturing workers who care for older relatives reported more stress and other problems than workers without these eldercare demands, according to a NIOSH-funded study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

While childcare demands are well recognized as possible causes of work-family conflict, eldercare demands are increasingly the focus of research. Recently, researchers at the University of Connecticut looked at how eldercare demands affected workers. Researchers defined “eldercare” as helping an adult aged 65 years or older because of disability or illness, and they characterized “demands” as persistent, past, newly acquired, or none.

Researchers surveyed 520 workers at six different U.S. manufacturing companies about both work-related and personal measures. Work-related measures included family-work conflict, work stress, and job performance, while personal measures included mental health, such as depressive symptoms and sleep quality.

Results showed that newly acquired eldercare demands affected workers differently than long-term demands. Respondents with newly acquired eldercare demands had worse mental health, including increased depressive symptoms, than workers with no eldercare demands. In comparison, respondents who reported persistent eldercare demands had greater work stress and family-work conflict than workers with no eldercare demands. This knowledge can help occupational safety and health experts and employers tailor policies to help workers as they balance work-life demands.

More information is available:

hard hats on a wall

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

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job vacancy megaphone

NIOSH Seeks Deputy Director for Respiratory Heath Division
NIOSH is looking for a Supervisory Research Physician (Status Candidates), Industrial Hygienist (Status Candidates), or Health Scientist (Status Candidates) to serve as the Division Deputy Director of the NIOSH Respiratory Health Division in Morgantown, West Virginia. This position will provide technical direction and administrative oversight to broad research, public health surveillance, and service portfolio in work-related respiratory health, leading to advances in preventing occupational respiratory disease and improving workers’ respiratory health. The vacancy closes December 17.

Stay Safe

Follow NIOSH for Winter Safety Tips for Workers
Winter is almost here! Now is the time to take precautions and make sure workers are prepared to stay safe and healthy while working in the cold or in cold environments. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest resources all winter long. #workingincold

Funding Available to Study Use of Robotics in the Workplace
NIOSH in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and others, announced funding available to study workplace use of collaborative robots (co-robots). The December 2, announcement calls for proposals for the National Robotics Initiative 2.0 (NRI 2.0). NIOSH seeks fundamental and applied research on co-robots for reducing workplace risk exposures, research to identify potential risks of co-robots to workers, and research to evaluate different control strategies.The proposal submission window is February 12-26, 2020. More information is available on the NSF web site.

NIOSH and the U.S. Coast Guard Announce 2020 Commercial Fishing Safety Research and Training Grants
Six million dollars in funding is now available to support both research on improving the occupational safety of workers in the commercial fishing industry, as well as critical training for this high-risk occupation. The fishing safety research and training grants will provide up to 50% of an organization’s costs, ranging from $150–$650 thousand per grant over a two-year funding period. In 2019, nine research and training projects were awarded $5.25 million in funding. The research and training grant funding opportunities are listed as RFA-OH-20-002 and RFA-OH-20-003, respectively. The deadline to apply for both grants is January 21, 2020.

Special Issue on Health and Safety in the Fishing, Aquaculture, and Seafood Processing Industries Available
The Journal of Agromedicine recently published a special issue dedicated to papers presented at and inspired by the Fifth International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference (IFISH 5). The special issue continues the discussion started at IFISH 5 on the effects of fisheries management policy on health and safety, the state of the science in aquaculture, the health effects of bioaerosols in seafood processing, and many other practical and relevant solutions for improving safety and health in these high-risk industries. As editor of the special issue, Jennifer M. Lincoln, Co-Director of the NIOSH Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, contributed an editorial on the importance of IFISH and future directions for the conference.

Monthly Features

Federal Register Notice

Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health (ABRWH or the Advisory Board), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
The notice was posted on November 7. The meeting will be held on December 11 from 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.(PST). The public comment session will be held on December 11 at 5:30 p.m. (PST).

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations
The notice was posted on November 4. Comments must be received by January 3, 2020.

Request for Information for Six Chemicals to Develop Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) Values
The notice was posted on November 11. Comments must be received by January 13, 2020.

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations
The notice was posted on November 20. Comments must be received by January 21, 2020.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

Upcoming NORA Presentations on Occupational Health Equity
On December 10, the Traumatic Injury Prevention Council will hold a council meeting to discuss the topic “Occupational Health Equity.” Kevin Riley, Director of Research and Evaluation, UCLA Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program, will speak on “Occupational Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Access Among Residential Day Laborers and Domestic Workers in California.” Deidre Green, NIOSH, will speak on “Occupational Injuries Among Janitors in a Major Metropolitan Area.” For any questions or to RSVP, please contact Christine Schuler.

News from Our Partners

Upcoming Meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
The U.S. Department of Labor will hold a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) meeting on December 12. Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, will give an update on U.S. Occupational Safety and Health initiatives. NIOSH Director John Howard will also provide remarks. Comments and request to speak may be submitted here.

DOL Announces Funding Related to the Effects of Opioids on Workers
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced the availability of $20 million in grants as part of a new pilot grant program that addresses the health and economic impacts of widespread substance and opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose by providing retraining and other services to workers in significantly impacted communities.

Resources to Promote Worker Safety and Pay During the Holiday Season
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reminds employers to protect worker safety and pay during the upcoming holiday season. Temporary or seasonal employees hired to provide additional help have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and to be paid for the work performed OSHA offers holiday workplace safety resources on warehousingtractor trailer driversforklift safety, winter weather and crowd management. General safety guides are also available, providing information on workers’ rights, the protection of temporary and seasonal workers, as well as safety for young workers. Learn more in the DOL guide for holiday season employment.

New Reports Available on Occupational Hazards Related to Class B Biosolids and Solar Panel Plants
The Illinois Occupational Surveillance Program, a NIOSH-supported State Surveillance Program, released two new reports:

Access other recent research & projects from the Illinois Occupational Surveillance Program.

 Recently Released Newsletters Available From NIOSH-funded Centers
The Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety—a NIOSH-supported Education and Research Center—released its latest quarterly newsletter. The most recent monthly update is also out from CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training. CPWR is the NIOSH-funded National Construction Center.

U.S. Surgeon General Highlights NIOSH Total Worker Health Efforts in Recent Publication
The NIOSH Office of Total Worker Health® and the six grant-funded Centers of Excellence received recognition in a journal article from the U.S. Surgeon General in Public Health Reports. The article highlighted the importance of worker well-being and successful research and practice from the NIOSH Office of Total Worker Health (TWH), NIOSH TWH Affiliates, and the Centers of Excellence for TWH. These included NIOSH partnering with the National Institutes of Health to identify TWH research needs through the 2015 workshop, “Total Worker Health: What’s Work Got to Do With It?” The article also featured the Health Improvement Through Training & Employee Control Program from the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace.

Webinars, Conferences & Events

Call for Abstracts

XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work
Deadline for abstracts is January 15, 2020.

Call for Occupational Safety and Health Multimedia Submissions

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

Call for Manuscripts

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

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

30th Annual Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference
April 20–24, 2020, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

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

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

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

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