FY 2017 Extramural Research Program Highlights: Multidisciplinary Centers
NIOSH funds multidisciplinary centers that focus on industries with an excessive share of job-related injury and illness. Various grant mechanisms, including cooperative agreements and center training grants, fund these centers.
On this page, you will find research highlights for our:
The Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health (Ag Centers), established as part of the NIOSH Agricultural Safety and Health Initiative through a cooperative agreement, represent a major NIOSH effort to protect the safety and health of farm workers and their families. These centers conduct research, education, and prevention projects to respond to the nation’s pressing agricultural safety and health problems. Right now, 10 regional Ag Centers throughout the country work on regional safety and health issues unique to each area. NIOSH also supports the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Safety and Health (Child Ag Center)external icon within the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin. With a national focus, the Child Ag Center strives to enhance the safety of all children exposed to hazards associated with agricultural work.
NIOSH Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health
In 1990, Congress established a national initiative in agricultural safety and health under Public Law 101-517. The intention of this initiative, “… when sustained over a period of time, would result in a significant and measureable impact on … health effects among rural Americans.” In response, NIOSH began funding the Centers for Agricultural Disease and Injury Research, Education, and Prevention in 1991. In FY 2015, the name changed to Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health. These centers strive to improve worker safety and health in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries—jobs that consistently ranked among the most dangerous in the United States. Although they still rank as some of the most dangerous, significant decreases in injuries, illnesses, and death among farm workers occurred in the more than 25 years since the Act took effect. Part of the decline in injuries and deaths can be attributed to the work done by the Ag Centers.
The Ag Centers’ work spans the full research-to-practice continuum. First, they conduct basic science to evaluate and quantify an issue. Researchers then transfer the results into engineering controls, educational outreach efforts, or policy changes aimed at preventing or mitigating the problem. The Ag Centers’ research helps create and validate evidence-based approaches. However, the real impact occurs by application of these approaches through practical education, outreach, and prevention projects within their regions. Geographic diversity in agriculture, forestry, and fishing activities drives the need for regional engagement by the centers.
The Ag Centers made significant contributions to public health in FY 2017:
- Integrating skill and know-how from multiple disciplines, institutions, and community partners to solve complex problems.
- Providing a continuum of basic research through translation and outreach activities that turn findings into evidence-based prevention programs.
- Responding to the many cultural, ethnic, educational, and language obstacles that are significant barriers to safety and health for many laborers in this workforce.
- Contributing knowledge to agricultural industries in the fields of medicine, nursing, industrial hygiene, epidemiology, engineering, and education.
Ag Center outputs are the products of research activities and include publications. We collected publications by NIOSH-funded extramural researchers from principal investigator reports to NIOSH, the NIH Reporter database, the NIOSHTIC-2 database, and the PubMed database. From October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, Ag Centers published 102 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Find a searchable database of NIOSH publications, which includes grantee final reports and publications, by using the NIOSHTIC-2 publications search.
Ag Centers Assisting Vulnerable and Immigrant Populations
Many U.S. workers in AFF industries are immigrants or in vulnerable populations. These workers are often described based on gender, race or ethnicity, nationality, age, social status, or access to care. Regardless of what descriptors subdivide them, these populations face increased risks due to their various backgrounds. These workers include immigrants experiencing cultural, social, and language barriers. Due to the economic demands and work cultures on small, family farms, often their children engage in risky behaviors. These workers also experience increased work-related morbidity and mortality. Because of the widespread participation of vulnerable populations in the AFF workforce, many Ag Centers engage in projects or outreach activities affecting these groups.
California: Translation of Economic, Socio-cultural, and Physiological Factors into Effective Interventions for Heat Illness in Farm Workers
Despite major campaigns to reduce heat-related illness (HRI) in agricultural workers, illnesses and fatalities still occur at a considerably higher rate compared with other workers exposed to hot environments. The complexity of contributing factors go beyond environment, work intensity, and physiology. They also include cultural and socio-economic elements unique to the largely immigrant pool of farm workers. This project translates existing data from the center’s first study on behavioral and physiological factors in California farm workers into multifaceted risk-reduction strategies. These strategies include developing alerts and sending real time information to supervisors in the fields using mobile phone applicationspdf iconexternal icon. These culturally relevant apps will prove more effective by bringing heat-related illness prevention into daily, rather than occasional, awareness.
Florida: PISCA—Pesticide and Heat Stress Education for Latino Farmworkers
Chronic low-dose exposure to pesticides and extreme heat and humidity contribute to poor health effects among farmworkers—a group of mostly Mexican immigrants. Recent revisions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Worker Protection Standard and growing concern over heat-related illness made creating education curricula necessary. This education lessens workers’ pesticide exposure and the harmful effects of exposure to heat and humidity.
The PISCA project strives to reduce pesticide and heat-related illness among Latino farmworkers through a community-advocate-university partnership. Researchers create reproducible, culturally, and contextually suitable curricula for Latino farmworkers, targeting pesticide exposure and heat-related illness. They also work to figure out the effectiveness of the developed curricula in promoting advocated safety behaviors.
Minnesota: Promoting Safety and Worker Health in Immigrant Dairy Workers
Immigrant workers help sustain U.S. dairy production, however, they often lack adequate training due to cultural and language barriers. This project aims to improve the occupational health and safety of Minnesota’s growing immigrant dairy workforce. It applies a community health worker model (e.g., Seguridad en Las Lecherfas: Immigrant Dairy Worker Health and Safety) and employs a team from various disciplines. These include clinicians, veterinarians, producers, workers, and community health centers. The project uses resources from previous center projects, building on past efforts to create a worker health and safety curriculum.
Investigators are enrolling 30 dairies in Minnesota to serve as industry leaders. They offer intensive training to 300 to 450 workers to serve as Community Health Workers (Promotores de Salud) in these dairies. These specially trained workers will incorporate available healthcare and train veterinarians to assess potential hazards and workers/producers in reducing those hazards.
Nebraska: Health and Safety Risks among Immigrant Cattle Feedyard Workers in the Central States Region
This project seeks to better understand Latino immigrant cattle feedlot worker health and safety in two top cattle producing states— Nebraska and Kansas. Researchers are interviewing 256 workers using a new Ecological Stress-based Model of Immigrant Health and Safety. They intend to test the model’s properties with the information collected from the workers. With the results, they plan to develop, evaluate, and distribute culturally tailored and industry-specific health and safety information for cattle feedlot workers in both English and Spanish.
Wisconsin: Child Ag Center Featured in National News Publications
The National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Safety and Health strives to protect the health and safety of all children exposed to hazards from working on farms and living in rural areas. It addresses this goal through research, education, intervention, prevention, translation, and outreach. The center mainly focuses on translating childhood agricultural safety research and knowledge into practice through partnerships with a range of stakeholders.
The center offers a wide variety of services related to children and teens in these rural settings. It serves as a leader in building partnerships, conducting research with practical implications, generating consensus on complex issues, and producing resources useful to multiple audiences. A New York Times articleexternal icon on farm safety for children featured the director of the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. The online magazine, New Food Economyexternal icon, also recently featured the center’s research on need for childcare in American agriculture.
NIOSH eNews, April 2018
Marshfield Clinic National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safetyexternal icon
National Children’s Center for Rural Agricultural Health and Safety Annual Reportpdf icon
The CPWR—Center for Construction Research and Training received a NIOSH National Construction Center cooperative agreement for 2014–2019 through an extramural competition. The center, with its diverse construction community, leads in applied construction research, making effective interventions available to the construction industry. Along with its consortium of six academic partners, CPWR researches safety and health risks that construction workers face on the job, including their causes and solutions. Their research projectsexternal icon support NORA Construction Sector research goals as well as emerging issues.
For the past 25 years, the funding for CPWR comes through a series of competitive program announcements, as the NIOSH-sponsored Center of Excellence for Construction Safety and Health Research. For FY2017, CPWR’s research activities focused on NORA Construction Goals 1 through 15. This work included applied research for hazards and health conditions, emerging issues research in nanomaterials, construction industry data and tracking, and the distribution and transfer of research. Research projects also responded to the National Academy of Sciences’ recommendations for the NIOSH construction research program, including distributing research-to-practice solutions. CPWR has cultivated and optimized external partnerships for prevention, protections, research, and research translation for protecting U.S. construction workers.
CPWR outputs are the products of research activities and include publications. We collected publications by NIOSH-funded extramural researchers from principal investigator reports to NIOSH, the NIH Reporter database, the NIOSHTIC-2 database, and the PubMed database. From October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, CPWR published 14 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Find a searchable database of NIOSH publications, which includes grantee final reports and publications, by using the NIOSHTIC-2 publications search.
CPWR’s research and outreach activities in FY2017 received international recognition related to nanomaterials in construction. The Center also developed tools that over 1,000 workers, multiple companies, and a federal agency use. Examples of their work follow.
Nanotechnology in Construction
CPWR and the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center work together to create a valuable source of information related to engineered nanomaterials in construction. Recently, CPWR and NIOSH researchers cowrote a chapter in an upcoming European textbook on managing exposure to these nanomaterials. The book, Occupational Exposure to Manufactured Nanomaterials in the Construction Industry: Strategy and Guidelines (SCAFFOLD Handbook), is a European guidance document. It gives practical guidelines for the safe use of manufactured nanomaterials in the construction industry.
Additionally, eLCOSH Nanoexternal icon, CPWR’s inventory of nanotechnology-related commercial construction products, now lists 576 items as either nano-enabled or nanostructured. The inventory—the largest in the world—focuses on nano-enabled commercial construction products, serving as a resource on health and safety issues for workers who handle these products.
U.S.Department of Energy Uses CWPR’s Jobsite Safety Climate Tools
CPWR and researchers at Washington State University partnered to develop the Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT). The S-CAT is a free online tool for construction companies to conduct anonymous assessments of their safety climate maturity. Participants using the tool receive a tailored report with scores on eight leading indicators of jobsite safety climate. The report includes benchmark data so companies can compare their level of climate maturity to other companies that took the S-CAT. So far, more than 30 companies took the S-CAT, with the S-CAT database holding over 2,500 individual responses.
The U.S. Department of Energy is conducting a pilot project using the S-CAT to measure safety climate maturity in several departments. Each department is using the new CPWR workbook, “Worksheet and a Rating Tool to Help You Strengthen Jobsite Safety Climate,” to find possible interventions to improve low-scoring indicators. These departments plan to take the S-CAT one year after the application of the intervention to see how much the intervention affected their safety climate maturity.
NIOSH funded six Centers of Excellence, located throughout the U.S., to explore and research the concepts of Total Worker Health (TWH). NIOSH defines TWH as policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with the promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being. They aim to broadly integrate workplace systems to control hazards and exposures, organization of work, compensation and benefits, work-life balance, and organizational change management. Their approach works toward a hazard-free workplace for all workers.
The centers made important efforts toward TWH:
- Pilot testing of promising workplace policies and programs.
- Developing and distributing best practices and tool kits.
- Creating strategies to overcome barriers for adoption of work-based interventions to protect and promote health
- Investigating costs and benefits associated with integrated programs.
- Promoting increased development and application of biological markers of stress, sleep, and depression to protect workers and improve worker health.
Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health®
The Centers of Excellence develop and evaluate interventions to improve safety, health, and well-being—TWH approaches—in high-risk industries that can reduce healthcare costs when adopted on a broad scale. The centers enable translation from research to practice, testing the process and feasibility of applying TWH approaches in real-world environments through the sectors of manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, public safety, services, and construction. Efforts include an integrative and comprehensive approach to reduce workplace hazards and promote worker health. This approach includes identifying the links between workplace culture and personal high-risk behaviors, as well as issues that transcend the workplace, such as work-family strain.
The Centers’ outputs are the products of research activities and include publications. We collected publications by NIOSH-funded extramural researchers from principal investigator reports to NIOSH, the NIH Reporter database, the NIOSHTIC-2 database, and the PubMed database. From October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, the Centers of Excellence published 24 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Find a searchable database of NIOSH publications, which includes grantee final reports and publications, by using the NIOSHTIC-2 publications search.
Center for Health, Work & Environment Reaches Nearly 85,000 Small Business Employees through Health Links™ Program
Small businesses with fewer than 500 workers made up 99.7% of U.S. employer firms in 2012, according to the U.S. Small Business Administrationpdf iconexternal icon. However, these companies are under-represented in terms of the adoption and implementation of TWH practices and research. The Center for Health, Work & Environment saw this as a chance to influence the health and safety outcomes of workers with targeted TWH outreach strategies through its Health Links™ program.
The center’s Health Links™ program focuses on collaborations with employers to build a workplace culture of health and safety. Health Links™ include an online tool that the center uses to assess organizations’ policies and programs, make evidence-based recommendations, and connect employees with local resources. The center partnered with multiple entities, including local public health agencies and several chambers of commerce, to give TWH information to small businesses. The center also recognizes businesses as Certified Healthy Businesses through Health Links™. In 2017, this effort resulted in engaging 199 small- and mid-sized employers, reaching nearly 85,000 employees.
Center for Work, Health, & Well-Being Implements Global TWH Training in South America
The Harvard Center for Work, Health, & Well-Being held two global trainings—one in Chile and the other in Brazil—on knowledge, strategies, and tools for using a TWH integrated systems-level approach. The course, “Work, Health, and Well-Being: Making the Business Case for Integrated Approaches,” discussed the value of a TWH approach, focusing on work conditions to improve worker health, safety, and well-being. The April 2017 training in Chile built on a formal partnership between the center and Mutual de Seguridad—an occupational injury insurance company. Occupational safety and health managers, upper-level management, and personnel from Mutual de Seguridad attended the event. Additionally, some of their clients joined in the training.
In Brazil, the course took place in May 2017 at Serviço Social da Indústria (SESI)—a nonprofit that promotes social welfare to enhance the lives of workers, their families, and their communities. The training audience included SESI upper-level leadership, along with some of their clients, which included managers in occupational safety and health, worksite health promotion, and human resources.
National Corrections Association Collaborates With CPH-NEW to Promote TWH Approach
Past research from the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) showed that correctional officers suffer serious health declines within the first three years on the job. The center’s study results also revealed that introducing preventive TWH interventions to new recruits help correctional officers avoid these health issues.
During FY2017, the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA)—a key policy group in the field of U.S. corrections—endorsed the TWH approach. To help advocate for this approach of integrating working conditions with individual health, ASCA launched a multi-part initiative. This initiative focused on workforce well-being to improve the corrections environment. This move came after the Co-Director of CPH-NEW spoke to their members at ASCA’s 2017 national conference. ASCA’s membership includes corrections commissioners and leaders in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.
ASCA also established a new executive committee focused on employee health and well-being. They work closely with CPH-NEW to learn from its study, “Health Improvement through Training & Employee Control (HITEC II).” HITEC II centers on peer health mentoring to target new cadet correctional officers to support healthier behavior. ASCA is also interested in CPH-NEW’s ability to develop and supply process evaluation tools and metrics to help corrections commissioners in justifying legislative support for TWH initiatives.
Center for Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW)external icon
Safety & Health in corrections Historyexternal icon
Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA)external icon
Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Study Aims for Improved Sleep for Truckers
Long-distance truck drivers sometimes suffer from a lack of sleep. The fatigue that truck drivers experience can affect both work performance and health—a lack of sleep adds to chronic health problems like obesity and diabetes. To address this issue, some companies assign drivers in pairs so that one worker can sleep while the other drives. However, sleeping in a noisy, moving vehicle does not offer the same kind of restful sleep as a motionless bed in a quiet room. To deal with this problem, the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center is collaborating with the University of Washington on the Tech4Rest study.
In this study, researchers use a two-pronged approach to improve sleep quality for truck drivers. They examine the influence of an enhanced truck cab and a behavioral sleep health program on truck drivers’ sleep habits. The enhanced truck cab involves testing the effects of a therapeutic mattress system and an active suspension seat to reduce whole body vibrations during driving and sleep periods. Fit4Sleep, the behavioral sleep health program, tests various interventions, including physical activity, sleep training, and health coaching.
The Power of Partnership: TWH Approach Merged into Nebraska Governor’s Wellness Award
WorkWell collaborates with the University of Iowa Healthier Workforce Center to integrate TWH concepts into its safety and wellness trainings and educational materials. WorkWell is a Nebraska Worksite Wellness Council, a division of the Nebraska Safety Council designated as a NIOSH Total Worker Health® affiliate. A product of this collaboration includes a new health and safety risk and culture assessment tool that became available to all Nebraska Safety Council members in 2017. During the year, WorkWell also headed efforts to include a TWH standard into the Nebraska Governor’s Wellness Award program, which recognizes state organizations of all sizes for their wellness efforts.
Understanding Pathways to Precarious Jobs and Healthy Work
Precarious work describes jobs with dangerous conditions, long hours, and that are contingent or insecure with no paid benefits, advancement opportunities, or scheduling control. The UIC Center for Healthy Work at the University of Illinois in Chicago aims to understand how organizations perceive precarious work through its project, Healthy Communities through Healthy Workexternal icon. The program involves partners, including neighborhood groups, and regional, state, and national organizations in multiple occupational sectors to find ways to advance healthy work into precarious jobs.
During 2017, the center conducted 40 interviews with its partners to understand the cause of precarious work and its impact on health in America. It used a two-part process to analyze the data. Initial findings show that key partners know that employers hire temporary and contractual workers to cut costs—changing the culture of work. This shift led to people working multiple jobs, feeling overloaded, and developing bad health. However, researchers determined there exists limited understanding of how to work on the problem.
Through discussions with its partners, the center also collected a list of interventions— initiatives targeting multiple audiences and sectors—via a database. Literature reviews identified several interventions as best practices. As of October 2017, the database contained information on 103 interventions. These data include the intervention topic, evidence supporting the intervention, location, target population, and implementing sector.
NIOSH supports professional training in occupational safety and health (OSH) through training programs in Education and Research Centers (ERCs). ERCs are university-based, multidisciplinary centers that offer graduate training in the core and allied fields of occupational safety and health. ERCs also supply continuing education and outreach to the OSH community throughout the federal health region they serve. ERCs are interdisciplinary programs and a major part of a network of training grants that help ensure an adequate supply of qualified professional practitioners and researchers. Essential ERC components are outreach and research-to-practice activities with other institutions, businesses, community groups, and agencies within their region. Programs respond to area needs and carry out new strategies to meet those needs, with a focus on worker health and safety.
NIOSH Education and Research Centers
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-596) directs NIOSH to ensure an adequate supply of qualified occupational safety and health personnel. NIOSH responded to this mandate by funding training programs to increase the number and competencies of the occupational safety and health workforce in the United States. NIOSH-funded ERCs are central to this response and serve a vital role in protecting the health and safety of the nation’s workforce. Aligning with the goals of Healthy People 2020—to prevent diseases, injuries, and deaths due to working conditions—ERCs improve occupational safety and health through education, research, and collaboration. They serve as regional and national resources on these issues for business, labor, government, and the public.
ERCs meet the critical need to produce researchers and practitioners—vital to maintaining workplace health and safety— and reduce the burden of preventable work-related injury, illness, and death by performing the following actions:
- Providing the necessary knowledge to the U.S. workforce to reduce the burden of work-related injury, illness, and death.
- Developing the major research advances needed to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the United States.
- Providing regional and industry-specific outreach and consultation to more than 5,000 small-, medium-, and large-sized U.S. businesses annually.
- Serving as the primary knowledge source for public and government leaders for job-related safety issues without duplicating other government programs.
ERC outputs are the products of research activities and include publications. We collected publications by NIOSH-funded extramural researchers from principal investigator reports to NIOSH, the NIH Reporter database, the NIOSHTIC-2 database, and the PubMed database. From October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, the ERCs published 223 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Find a searchable database of NIOSH publications, which includes grantee final reports and publications, by using the NIOSHTIC-2 publications search.
Trainees, Graduates, and Employment of Graduates
In academic year 2016–2017, more than 300 students graduated from ERC programs with specialized training in disciplines including industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine, occupational safety, and other closely related occupational safety and health fields. The number of ERC graduates increased from 252 in FY2016 to 311 in FY2017. The first table below shows the number of students who enrolled along with the number of graduates and their employment status during FY2017.
The other table shows the placement of FY2017 graduates by program area and work setting. We consider graduates looking for occupational safety and health employment and not working outside their field as remaining in the field.
Table. ERC Trainees, Graduates, and Employment, FY2017
|Program Area||Enrolled||Graduates||Employed or seeking occupational
safety and health employment (%)
|Industrial Hygiene||174||88||87 (99)|
|Occupational Health Nursing||126||44||37 (84)|
|Occupational Medicine||79||42||42 (100)|
|Occupational Safety||68||62||61 (98)|
|Other Related Disciplines||285||75||71 (95)|
Table. ERC Graduate employment by work setting, FY2017
Continuing Education Outputs
Continuing education of occupational safety and health professionals is a required part of ERCs funding. Each year, NIOSH ERCs train thousands of these professionals around the United States through course offerings in the occupational safety and health core and related disciplines. The following table shows the continuing education activity by discipline. In FY2017, ERCs provided 397,208 person hours of training to 52,846 occupational safety and health professionals, who took 1,658 courses.
Table. Continuing Education Courses by discipline, FY2017
|Occupational Health Nursing||207||7,712||46,559|
|Ag Safety and Health||8||1,317||315|
ERC Program Achievements
More than 100 U.S. Media Outlets Feature Harvard Airline Pilot Mental Health Study
In March 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people onboard. An investigation found that the copilot deliberately steered the plane into the mountainside. It also revealed that he had a history of depression, although the airline company was unaware of this crucial information. In one of the first studies of its kind, faculty and trainees at the NIOSH-funded Harvard ERC looked at the prevalence of depression among commercial airline pilots.
Using an anonymous web-based survey of pilots recruited from unions, airline companies, pilot groups, and aviation safety organizations, researchers asked about depression and other health issues. Nearly 1,840 airline pilots completed the survey. More than 12% of the pilots who answered the survey’s health questions met the criteria for depression, with 4% reporting suicidal thoughts within the prior two weeks. The Environmental Health journal published this study in FY2017. Since then, more than 100 national and local media outlets around the U.S. featured this research, including ABC News, Cable News Network, Newsweek, and Time Magazine.
Airplane Pilot Mental Health and Suicidal Thoughts: a Cross-sectional Descriptive Study via Anonymous Web-based Surveyexternal icon
Research Rounds: Airline Pilot Survey Highlights Need for Mental Health Support
Harvard Education and Research Centerexternal icon
Texas ERC Assists in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
Damaging winds and flooding from Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston, Texas, and surrounding areas in August 2017. In response, ERC trainees and faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston assisted with recovery efforts. They helped monitor soil and waters in flooded areas for chemical and biological contaminants, collecting more than 150 samples. The faculty and students also handed out more than 900 kits to help Houston residents and recovery volunteers with storm cleanup. The kits included personal protective equipment (N-95 respirator masks) and bilingual guidance on how to avoid flood-related hazards. This included recommendations on mold remediation. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston also offered education on proper respirator use and classes to large community groups focused on health risks associated with flooded homes.
Union Partners on Workload, Health, and Injury Study among Janitors
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Occupational Outlook Handbookexternal icon, the employment rate for janitors and building cleaners is expected to increase by 10% from 2016 to 2026 to 2.6 million workers. This is faster than the average for all occupations. Because the work consists of tasks like cleaning with chemicals, removing garbage, and heavy lifting, these workers are at risk for injuries and illnesses that include respiratory and infectious diseases and musculoskeletal disorders. However, few studies have examined the relationship between the workloads of janitors as it relates to injury.
The University of Minnesota ERC studied the health and workload factors contributing to injuries among this occupational group. The research involved a collaboration with the Service Employees International Union Local 26external icon, a property services union in Minnesota. Researchers collected survey data from 4,000 janitors, looking at their physical workload, health status, and rates of injury. Researchers administered the surveys during two separate 6-month timeframes.
Researchers also conducted two sub-studies using subsets of workers who completed the survey. In one year-long study, janitors wore activity trackers that monitored their physical activity (workload) on the job. In the second sub-study, ergonomists conducted on-the-job assessments on a different group of janitors to define their potential physical workload. Researchers plan to analyze and compare the workload, exposure, and injury data from the study to find associations between these factors. The research findings should contribute to the development and evaluation of interventions that enable safer work environments for janitors and other building cleaners.
Center Collaborations Lead to Regional Joint Research Symposium in Occupational Health and Safety
Three ERCs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan collaborated to hold their first Joint Research Symposium in Occupational Health and Safety. The daylong Symposium kicked off in March 2017 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 120 attendees. The meeting included two panel discussions focusing on themes of underserved workers and global work-related health. Participants presented 23 posters, featuring a wide range of topics related to occupational safety and health and engineering. These presentations included health and safety hazards assessments, job-related inhalation exposures, and improving postures in microsurgery.