Fiscal Year 2017 Extramural Research Program Highlights

Specialty Training Programs

NIOSH funds programs that provide education and training in occupational safety and health in a variety of ways. Along with the Education and Research Centers (ERCs) described under the Multidisciplinary Centers section, NIOSH supports professional training in occupational safety and health in single disciplines through Training Project Grants (TPGs).

The Institute also funds the Miner Safety and Health Training Program—Western United States cooperative agreement, which connects the mining community with relevant information, resources, and methods that increase the volume and ability of safety training for western states’ miners.

On this page, you will research highlights for our:

Training Project Grants

NIOSH supports professional training in occupational safety and health in single disciplines through TPGs. Most TPGs are academic training programs that support undergraduate and graduate training. Located throughout the U.S., these programs enrich the national network of graduate training the ERCs offer. Along with TPGs for traditional degree training programs, NIOSH supports TPGs that respond to the unique training needs of specialty groups. These include the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP). This program supplies specialty training and increases diversity among health and safety workers by recruiting and mentoring students from minority and immigrant backgrounds, including underrepresented minorities.

Through a TPG, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association expands the network of port-based fishing safety instructors in Alaska and the U.S. They achieve this through a train-the-trainer curriculum designed for the unique needs of the commercial fishing industry. NIOSH also provides funding for the Emergency Responder Training Program through the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)external icon, which is also discussed below.

NIOSH Training Project Grants by Discipline

Map NIOSH Training Project Grants by Discipline

NIOSH uses TPGs as a principal means of providing enough qualified professionals to carry out the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. TPGs help train in specific disciplines to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. The graduates of TPGs serve a vital role in protecting and promoting the health and safety of U.S. workers, aligning with the goals of Healthy People 2020—to prevent diseases, injuries, and deaths due to working conditions. TPGs also serve as important resources on job-related safety and health issues for business, labor, government, and the general public.

TPG research 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 TPG researchers published 23 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.

Training Project Grant Trainees, Graduates, and Employment by Discipline

In academic year 2016–2017, the TPG aca­demic training programs graduated 280 trainees with specialized training in industrial hygiene, occupational safety and medicine, and allied disciplines. These allied disciplines included occupational health psychology, risk management, occupational ergonomics and engineering, environmental health, and occu­pational epidemiology.

Table. Training project grant trainees, graduates, and employment by discipline, FY2017

Table 17. Training project grant trainees, graduates, and employment by discipline, FY2017
Program Area Trainees Graduates Employed in occupational safety and health
field or seeking advanced training (%)
Industrial Hygiene 315 55 53 (96)
Occupational Safety 341 125 117 (94)
Occupational Medicine 42 23 23 (100)
Allied Disciplines 288 77 73 (95)
Total 986 280 266 (95)

TPG Program Achievements

Saving Lives: Alaska Marine Safety Education Association Instructor Training

Commercial fishing is one of the most haz­ardous jobs in America, with a fatality rate 29 times higher than the national occupational average. The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) tackles this issue by train­ing safety instructors through a Marine Safety Instructor-Training to teach fishing safety workshops. These are credible instructors who know both their local areas and the risky work environment that fishermen face.

By building a national network of safety instructors, this unique TPG targets saving lives by increasing the number of com­mercial fishing safety workshops available. These workshops, offered in Alaska and around the U.S., meet federal safety training requirements.

AMSEA shared the following testimonial from a fisherman. The man completed a safety workshop just five days before a potentially fatal incident. An AMSEA trained instructor led that workshop. The fisherman survived going overboard from a vessel, and he offered his appreciation: “I was knocked into the water (by some fishing gear) and inflated my lifejacket, regulated my breathing, and grabbed onto the boat. With a clear mind, the other crewmember sprang into action, took the boat out of gear, and spotted me. He then grabbed me and got me onboard as we had been trained. Even though it was a disas­ter, it couldn’t have gone any better. Who knows what would have happened if we didn’t go to the (safety) course. Thank you for all that you do for us fishermen.”

Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA)external icon
NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety

Exposure Assessment of Tattoo Artists

A 2017 publication from researchers at the Ohio State University reported that 40% of Americans in the millennial age group have one or more tattoos. Because tattoo art­ists’ jobs consist of sitting and holding small vibrating tools in awkward positions for long periods of time, they face a potential risk for musculoskeletal disorders. However, research­ers rarely study tattoo artists for work-related musculoskeletal problems and associated risk factors.

A TPG trainee at the Ohio State University led a study focusing on tattoo artists’ exposure to work factors that resulted in musculoskeletal discomfort. The results showed that tattoo artists experience musculoskeletal discomfort in multiple areas, including the neck, shoul­ders, hands/wrists, lower back, and legs/feet. In many cases, their work movements made their pain worse. Researchers concluded that while working, these artists spend most of their time in awkward positions, which could increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

To measure muscle response and elec­trical activity following nerve stimulation, researchers innovatively applied electromyog­raphy (EMG). Specifically, they sampled muscle activity during tattoo sessions with a wireless EMG system. The manufacturer of the EMG system nominated the study for an award rec­ognizing this innovative use of the EMG.

Investigation of Musculoskeletal Discomfort, Work Postures, and Muscle Activation among Practicing Tattoo Artistsexternal icon
OSU Safety Ergonomics Programexternal icon

Meharry Medical College Builds Competency in Occupational Medicine through Total Worker Health®

The Meharry Medical College TPG supports trainees in the Occupational Medicine Resi­dency program, a 2-year program supporting the completion of residency requirements in occupational medicine. During FY2017, Total Worker Health (TWH) content, in the form of TWH-related lectures, became part of the Meharry academic curriculum. These lectures focus on policies, programs, and practices that blend protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to increase worker well-being.

Through this change, medical residents will have a more holistic approach to caring for workers in underserved groups. For example, the TPG trainees now work with Worker’s Dignity—a Nashville, Tennessee, outreach group—on improving the care, safety, and workplace conditions of economically disad­vantaged employees.

Meharry Medical College, Occupational Medicineexternal icon
NIOSH Total Worker Health®

Emergency Responder Training Program

NIOSH funds a TPG in Emergency Responder Training Program through the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The IAFF’s mission through the program is to educate emergency responders about ways to stay safe and healthy. They strive to reduce on-the-job injuries, illnesses, and fatalities related to emergency response, so responders can better protect the communities they serve. Training takes place across the United States and its territories.

The IAFF has had a long working relationship with NIOSH. The association delivers training to all kinds of emergency response workers: fire fighters, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, and public health workers. The IAFF’s record emphasizes job-related safety and health as part of a complete first responder training plan. IAFF’s teachings seek to improve knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors so that first responders adopt a safer approach to emergency response throughout their career. IAFF training is a resource that directly affects decisions fire fighters make each day.

This federally funded training program serves as an excellent model for an effective training program for first responders. With a team of instructors who are both certified fire service instructors and hazardous materials (HazMat) responders, the IAFF provides real-world training in HazMat response. Furthermore, the IAFF brings its training directly to the students in their own communities, developing training partnerships with thousands of fire departments throughout the United States. Because of this community-based learning, local responders receive training that addresses their unique concerns and challenges.

As 9-1-1 calls for opioid-associated emergencies continue to increase, all levels of EMS providers must be properly trained to handle these life-threatening events—including the administration of naloxone (NARCAN). In response, the IAFF developed an Opioid Crisis Toolkit that uses the protocols, state-of-the-art responses, and resources available to fire fighters.

In FY2017, the IAFF delivered 96 classes to 2,152 students, totaling 47,328 contact hours.

Table. Emergency responder training classes, FY2017

Table 18. Emergency responder training classes, FY2017
Class Title Class
Total Contact
Confined Space Operations 16 hours 8 170 2,720
Illicit Drug Labs 8 hours 8 185 1,480
First Responder Operations 24 hours 80 1,797 43,128

Miner Safety and Health Training Program

Despite many technological and work environment advances, mining remains one of the most demanding occupations in the United States. Because of the many challenges in the mining industry, the focus areas for mining training must cover a wide range of hazards and risks.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Training Academy in Beckley, West Virginia, serves the mining community in the Eastern United States. Because this training program is not easy for miners in the Western states to access and certain aspects of mining operations differ in eastern and western operations, NIOSH has supported miner safety and health training in the Western U.S. since 1999.

For FY2017, two programs were funded in the Western U.S.: the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Arizona. And although no funding was given to the Mine Safety and Health Training Program at the University of Texas at Arlington in FY2017, they made significant progress. Their efforts show work that the training program completed with prior year grant funding and are captured in the program highlights below.

This training provides a joint approach to reducing injuries to miners and other workers in mining operations. It also aims to translate research into workplace practices that (1) improve mining safety, (2) advance the safety and health of miners, (3) enhance the safety and health of other workers involved in mining operations, and (4) increase the quantity of qualified mine safety and health trainers in the Western United States.

Several of the main objectives of the training program follow:

  • To develop, deliver, and manage the training needs of miners in the Western United States.
  • To provide qualified instructors and faculty.
  • To start and carry out “train the trainer” courses.
  • To evaluate training effectiveness and impact on reducing injuries and illnesses to miners.
  • To coordinate with existing training programs, like those offered by MSHA and MSHA-funded state programs, and in partnerships with industry, miners, and other agencies.

NIOSH intends for the program’s training to be consistent with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and MSHA guidelines, without duplicating these agencies’ existing trainings.

The Miner Safety and Health Training Program provides critical safety and health training to protect workers in one of the most dangerous industry sectors in the United States. This program contributes to this overall goal by taking the following actions:

  • Expanding the mission of NIOSH in protecting and promoting the health of mine workers. The trainings improved work practices, reduced work-related injury and illness, and increased the understanding of safety and health practices in Western mine worksites.
  • Increasing the safety focus, total health awareness, and leadership competency of miners, frontline supervisors, superintendents, and managers reprepresenting operations throughout the United States, spanning all major commodity sectors in surface and underground mining.
  • Directing the focus of mine-rescue training toward learning actual rescue skills, resulting in team members being better prepared to respond to all kinds of emergencies.

The Miner Safety and Health Training Program fills an important regional need. It is critical for underserviced populations working on mine sites, including contractors, suppliers, consultants, equipment manufacturers, and small mine operators. The program designs and uses active learning strategies for mine safety training. It has taught trainers across all mining service sectors throughout the Western United States on how to improve safety training. These activities improve the transfer of best safety practices to the workplace while increasing the number of workers served.

Harry’s Hard Choice Gaming Software

Several years ago, the University of Arizona developed MineSAFE (Software Architec­ture for Mine Safety Education)—a platform to produce “serious games” in mine safety education. The goal of MineSAFE is to create realistic and engaging training through gaming software that leads to increased knowledge transfer. Specifically, the university created the NIOSH training exercise, “Harry’s Hard Choices,” as a serious game that holds nearly all of the content required for the MSHA annual refresher training.

The University of Arizona is working on a second version of the MineSAFE platform. The goal is to increase its flexibility, allow for faster game development, improve functions, and allow multiplayers. The first serious game in the new platform, “Harry’s Hazardous Day,” is now under development. The University plans to test it in 2018. The new game focuses on inspecting job sites and finding hazards for stone, gravel, and cement facilities. It will also include evaluation dashboards that trainers can use to make improvement plans for each worker based on evaluations of his or her game use.

University of Arizona, Western Mining Safety and Health Training Resource Centerexternal icon
NIOSH Extramural Research and Training Program—Annual Report of Fiscal Year 2014pdf icon

Premiere of “Remember Wilberg” Documentary

The University of Texas at Arlington developed a documentary film about the 1984 fire at the Wilberg Mine in Utah that killed 27 coal miners. The one hour film, “Remember Wil­berg,” includes live reenactments and features 31 personal interviews, including an inter­view from the lone survivor. Fifteen hundred people attended the February 2017 premiere for the documentary in Castle Dale, Utah. The Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Explora­tion also featured the film at its 2017 annual meeting. The 2017 American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Conference and Exposition in Denver, Colorado also showed the film.

Mining Documentary, “Remembering Wilberg,” UTA

CSM Partners With Fire Rescue Organizations for Training

The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) devel­oped partnerships with organizations involved with rescue training during FY2017. These groups included the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and Colorado Fire Training Officer’s Association. Together, this collaboration developed a nationally accred­ited technical certification program for tunnel rescue, as specified in the National Fire Protec­tion Association standards.

Because CSM’s mine rescue training focuses on advanced technical rescue skills, the pro­gram teamed up with local fire departments to help with the training. These included the Black Hawk, Golden, West Metro, Golden Gate, Hyland Rescue, and Denver Fire Departments.

Page last reviewed: August 1, 2019