Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, occupational injuries have been increasingly recognized as a major source of life long disability and serious economic loss to workers and employers. The Act established the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and charged it with the enormous responsibility of conducting research and prevention efforts to assure every working man and woman safe and healthful working conditions. Since the 1970s, the numbers and rates of work place injuries and deaths have decreased substantially (Stout, Jenkins, and Pizatella, 1996; CDC, 1998). Moreover, the recognition of both the remendous toll and the high prevention potential of occupational injuries has increased. However, we are far from eliminating the hazards and risks of injury from our work places, or from dispelling the perception among many that such risks are acceptable as "part of the job." The economic costs to our society of occupational injuries and illnesses rival those of even cancer and heart disease, yet the scientific investment in causes, treatment, and prevention is comparatively tivial (Leigh et al., 1997). Prevention of occupational injuries is not only possible, but is essential to improving the quality of life for millions of American workers. It is also an enormous task and requires a coordinated effort of public and private resources to adequately address the problem. To this end, NIOSH unveiled the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) in April 1996. With numerous partners, including those in academia, industry and labor, NIOSH developed NORA to provide a framework to guide occupational safety and health research through the next decade for the entire occupational safety and health community (NIOSH, 1996; Rosenstock, Olenee, and Wagner, 1998). The fiscal restraints on occupational safety and health research accentuate the need for a coordinated and focused research agenda, and for harmonization of public and private research efforts and resources.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 715-H, 200 Independence S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201