This week CDC published new guidance for all agriculture workers and their employers that provides information on preparation, prevention, and management measures that can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.  For more information, please visit the COVID-19 webpage.

Volume 18, Number 2 (June 2020)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D. Director, NIOSH

National Safety Month: Reopening Our Country and Keeping Workers Safe and Healthy

This month, NIOSH joins our partners at the National Safety Council and elsewhere in observing National Safety Monthexternal icon. NIOSH is taking a different approach in how we are recognizing safety month this year, given the recent changes to our workplaces and how and where we may be conducting our work. Whatever your usual workplace looks like—a cubicle, a coalmine, a retail store, or a construction site—it will look differently as our country opens back up. NIOSH is actively working within the CDC response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help provide guidance and tools for essential workers and industries as they look to reopen. In recognition of National Safety Month, we wanted to share new information to help ease the transition for workers and to continue to ensure their safety and health.

In general, employers should follow the White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Againexternal icon. However, certain sectors, such as small businesses, face unique challenges. CDC has developed guidance for small businesses to help them prepare for disruptions in their business and for protecting their employees’ health and safety in the workplace. CDC also developed guidance for other sectors, such as airline workers, retail workers, food and delivery drivers, and many others.

As cities and states reopen, more people may start using public transit options to commute for work, school, or other activities. CDC has guidance for bus and rail transit operators to help keep these essential workers safe while working. People may also take advantage of ride share and taxi services as more places reopen. CDC has guidance for rideshare, taxi, limo, and other passenger drivers as they go back to work.

Recent changes have taken a mental toll on workers and employers. How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, as well as the well-being of your loved ones, your workplace, and your community. CDC has developed guidance to help workers deal with stress and build resilience during this transition. To manage workplace fatigue, there is additional guidance for workers and employers and for essential workers, such as emergency responders and healthcare workers.

Many other resources are available to help workers and employers as we reopen our country. Remember that you are not alone—we are all in this together.

Research Rounds
Inside NIOSH:
Occupational Exposure Banding Tool Assesses Chemical Hazards

The gold standard for assessing and controlling work-related chemical exposure is the occupational exposure limit, or OEL. While more than 85,000 chemicals are commercially available, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only about 1,000 chemicals have an authoritative OEL. As new chemicals are developed and introduced into commerce, the number of chemicals without OELs increases.

Consequently, NIOSH developed an approach called occupational exposure banding, described in a 2019 technical reportpdf icon, and an accompanying electronic assessment tool (e-Tool). Occupational exposure banding is an innovative, voluntary approach that uses information about a chemical’s toxicity and health effects to classify it into an appropriate occupational exposure band. The process is divided into three tiers, with each tier dependent upon available information for the chemical and user expertise. Users can enter information about a chemical into the e-Tool, which then classifies the chemical into one of five concentrations expected to protect worker health. The bands range from Band A, the highest exposure concentration range recommendation and associated with less serious health effects, to Band E, the lowest exposure concentration range recommendation and associated with more serious health effects.

Scientists tested the process and e-Tool on chemicals with OELs and found that the results were accurate, reproducible, and indicated recommended levels of airborne exposures that were at least as protective as the established OELs. Accordingly, NIOSH and other users can have confidence in the process as a reliable alternative for assessing chemical hazards. The process and e-Tool are not intended to replace OELs but can provide a starting point to inform risk management decisions when an OEL is not available. In the year following the release of the NIOSH occupational exposure banding process and e-Tool, the occupational safety and health community and partners like the American Industrial Hygiene Association have acknowledged its value and promoted its utility for assessing chemical hazards.

More information is available:

*This updated article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of NIOSH Research Rounds.

Outside NIOSH:
Older Nurses Cite Joy and Connection to Patients as Motivation to Work

As the U.S. workforce continues to age, many older nurses continue to work in direct care. This role can pose safety and health hazards, yet research is limited on older nurses’ ability to safely perform direct care. To address this issue, the NIOSH-funded New York and New Jersey Education and Research Center recently looked at factors that influence aging nurses’ work ability.

Researchers interviewed 17 female registered nurses by phone or in person between August 2017 and March 2018 at one large academic medical center. Most participants were white, their average age was 59, and they had spent about 34 years on the job. Guided by a NIOSH Organization of Work frameworkpdf icon, the questions focused on the framework’s principles that include work context, or characteristics of the job like work tasks and roles, and organizational context, such as workplace practices and policies.

Overall, the participants’ main motivations were internal factors like experiencing joy from nursing and feeling connected to patients at their bedside, according to the study published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research. Other aspects of the job that increased their ability to work included having a preferred work schedule that supported work-life balance, a work environment filled with camaraderie and teamwork, and organizational leaders who valued workers’ input. Participants identified health issues, such as knee replacement surgery, as one barrier to work performance—especially when it came to their desire to continue working in the future. Most said they expected to continue working for 5–10 more years.

Because of the limited number of participants, future research needs to reflect a wider population and range of healthcare systems, according to the researchers. Nevertheless, these findings support the need for managers of aging nurses to focus on their schedules, workload, and enhancement of overall health.

More information is available:

Open sign at coffee cafe

Photo by ©GettyImages

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, Highlights & Monthly Features

Contributing Editors
Sarah Mitchell
Emily Norton
Donjanea Williams

Copy Editor
Cheryl Hamilton

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

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Now Extended: Comment on Workplace-Supported Recovery Programs to Help Workers and Employers
In February, NIOSH posed a series of questions on Workplace-Supported Recovery Programs (WSRPs) to prevent and offer treatment for workers with substance use disorders through a Request for Information in the Federal Register. The comment period has been extendedexternal icon until July 27. Learn more about WSRPs and submit your feedback.

Working in Heat Safely, #BeatTheHeat
Summer is almost here! That means it’s time to take precautions to stay safe while working outside in the heat. Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or who work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (#HeatSafety #BeatTheHeat) for the latest information. Don’t forget to download the free OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App!

Software Trains Every Worker to be a Workplace EXAMiner
The NIOSH Mining Program recently released the full version of its EXAMiner software—a training tool that can be used to assess and improve workers’ abilities to find and mitigate hazards at their worksites. The software is preloaded with 31 panoramic mine site scenes, but also allows users to customize the training by uploading their own worksite images. These customized scenarios can be saved and shared with other users. Although designed with the mining workforce in mind, the software has also found appeal with other industries, including construction. Download EXAMiner from the NIOSH Mining website.

NIOSH Leadership Update
Dr. Gary Scott Earnest has been appointed Associate Director of the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health, effective May 10. After serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Scott started his career at NIOSH in 1992 and has held several different roles including Section and Branch Chief. In 2015, Scott was appointed Deputy Director of the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health, and then appointed Acting Director in 2018.

Monthly Features

New Communication Products & Reports

FACE Reports

Health Hazard Evaluation Reports


NIOSH Science Blog

Federal Register Notice

Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health Meeting

The noticeexternal icon was posted on May 6. The meeting will be held on June 24. Comments must be received by June 18.

Proposed Data Collection Submitted for Public Comment and Recommendations—The National Firefighter Registry (NFR).

The noticeexternal icon was posted on April 27. Comments must be received by June 26.

Hazardous Drugs: Draft NIOSH List of Hazardous Drugs in Healthcare Settings, 2020; Procedures; and Risk Management Information

The noticeexternal icon was posted on May 1. Comments must be received by June 30.

Developing a Workplace Supported Recovery Program: A Strategy for Assisting Workers and Employers with the Nation’s Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Epidemics; Request for Information

The noticeexternal icon was posted on April 13. Comments must be received by July 27.

Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, Subcommittee on Dose Reconstruction Review (SDRR) Meeting

The noticeexternal icon was posted on May 20. The meeting will be held on July 29.

Approval Tests and Standards for Air-Purifying Particulate Respirators

The noticeexternal icon was posted on April 14. Comments must be received by August 12.

Research Project to Evaluate and Control Hazards to Landscaping and Grounds Management Workers; Request for Participants

The noticeexternal icon was posted on January 10. Letters of interest must be received by October 16.

National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)

NORA Councils Evaluation Report Now Available
A process evaluation was conducted in 2019 to help the NORA councils function as effectively as possible and maximize their contributions towards improved occupational safety and health. This evaluation offered solutions to increasing engagement and fully achieving their goals. Learn more in the report, National Occupational Research Agenda Councils: 2019 Evaluation Findingspdf icon.

News from Our Partners

Endowment Established to Support Center for Health, Work & Environment
Drs Lee Newman and  Lori Szczukowski, recently committed $1.4 million to establish an Endowed Fund for Worker Healthexternal icon at the Colorado School of Public Health. These funds will be used for the sustainability of the Center for Health, Work & Environmentexternal icon, which is currently one of six NIOSH-funded Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health® and also houses the NIOSH-funded Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center. Dr. Newman is the founder and director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment.

OSHA Releases Resources on Properly Wearing a Respirator
OSHA recently released a video and posterpdf iconexternal icon showing seven steps to correctly put on and remove a respirator. The guidance highlights making sure to wash your hands before and after touching the respirator, as well as proper disposal.

New Dashboard Highlights Health Conditions and Behaviors of Workers by Industry
The Montana Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance (MOHSS) program published an interactive dashboardexternal icon using Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data to highlight health conditions and behaviors by industry. The dashboard allows the user to look at data for a specific industry or compare data across all industries. It also includes information about residents who are not currently in the workforce. More reports and information about the MOHSS program can be found on their websiteexternal icon. MOHSS is a NIOSH-funded state surveillance program.

New COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Workers
OSHA recently released new publications with tips for employers and employees on reduce risk of exposure to the COVID-19. Guidance for several industries including nursing homes, restaurants, construction, and rideshare workers are on their websiteexternal icon in English and Spanish.

Registration Opens for 2020 Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute
The Oregon Heathy Workforce Center and the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences have announced the 2020 Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute. This event will occur July 14–16, 2020, and is being held online this year. The theme for the Summer Institute is Building a Culture of Health, Safety, and Well-Being. Interactive sessions will be geared toward a two-pronged approach: 1) Think Culture of Health, Safety, and Well-Being and 2) Do Culture of Health, Safety, and Well-Being. Learn more and register on the event webpageexternal icon. The Oregon Heathy Workforce Center is a NIOSH-funded Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health®.

Webinars, Meetings & Conferences

Upcoming Webinars

Guidance for Re-opening and Maintaining Safe Salon Operations Amid the COVID-19 Pandemicexternal icon
June 8, 3:30-4:30 p.m. (EDT). Contact Leslie MacDonald for more information.

NIOSH Education and Research Centers Industrial Hygiene Webinar Series 2020—Exposure Assessment for Epidemiology Research: Use of Routine Industrial Monitoring Dataexternal icon
June 9, 3–4 p.m. (EDT). Contact Donjanea Williams for more information.

NIOSH Expanding Research Partnerships Webinar—Future of Work and Implications for Aging Workers
June 10, 12:00–1:30 p.m. (EDT). Contact Donjanea Williams for more information.

NIOSH Education and Research Centers Ergonomics Webinar Series 2020—Considerations in Exoskeleton Human Factors
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June 17, 3–4 p.m. (EDT). Contact Donjanea Williams for more information.

Upcoming Meetings

NORA Public Safety Sector Council Meeting
July 29, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (EDT). Contact Tyler Quinn for more information.

Upcoming Conferences

Institute of Work Psychology International Conferenceexternal icon
June 22–26, virtual event

Safety 2020 Professional Development Conference and Expositionexternal icon
June 23–25, virtual event

The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Occupational Health Psychology Summer Instituteexternal icon
July 14–16, virtual event

BHC Summer Forumexternal icon
July 29, virtual event

Clarity International Conferenceexternal icon
September 30–October 2, Washington, DC

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

American Public Health Association Conferenceexternal icon
October 24–28, San Francisco, California

31st Art & Science of Health Promotion Conferenceexternal icon
March 31–April 2, 2021, Colorado Springs, Colorado

XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Workexternal icon
Postponed to September 19–22, 2021, Toronto, Canada

Page last reviewed: May 4, 2020