National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health general industry occupational exposure databases: their structure, capabilities, and limitations.
The NIOSH National Occupational Hazard Survey (NOHS) and National Occupational Exposure Survey (NOES) databases were described. NOHS and NOES originated from surveys conducted by NIOSH between 1972 and 1974 and 1981 and 1983, respectively, in response to a request by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to obtain more detailed information on the distribution of potential exposures of workers in industries regulated by OSHA. The surveys were designed to characterize health and safety conditions in American workplaces and to assess the extent of worker exposures to chemical, physical, and biological agents. The sample of surveyed facilities was intended to permit projection of the studies findings to national levels. The data in the NOHS and NOES databases were combined into six interactive files for ease of retrieval: industrial classifications, occupations, chemical master, facilities, exposure, and tradenamed ingredients. Both databases can be used to associate potential exposures with type of industry, occupations, and observed conditions of exposure in the surveyed facilities. NOES also provided information on the gender of the potentially exposed workers. Since neither database provided detailed information on the health effects of a potential exposure, both were linked to the NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS). RTECS contained information on the results of toxicity studies of approximately 8,000 potential exposure agents. Linkage of NOHS and NOES with RTECS enabled NIOSH to produce a model that can systematically identify high risk employee groups. Limitations of NOHS and NOES included their lack of quantitative exposure data, the progressive aging of the data which makes them less representative of some current exposure situations, and the somewhat limited industry coverage.