FY 2018 Extramural Research Program Highlights: Multidisciplinary Centers
- Multidisciplinary Centers
- Investigator-Initiated Research
- Cooperative Agreements
- Specialty Training Programs
NIOSH funds multidisciplinary centers that focus on industries with an excessive share of job-related injury and illness. Various grant mechanisms, including cooperative research agreements and center training grants, fund these centers.
On this page, you will find research highlights for our:
- Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health
- National Center for Construction Research and Training
- Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health®
- Education and Research Centers
You can also find the information on this page in the NIOSH Extramural Research and Training Program: Annual Report of Fiscal Year 2018.
Centers for Agricultural Safety and Health
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 measurable 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, in the 25 years since the Act took effect, there have been significant decreases in injuries, illnesses, and death among farm workers. 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 FY2018:
- 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 differences 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, 2017, to September 30, 2018, Ag Centers published 81 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 Addressing Heat-related Illnesses Across the United States
Heat-related illnesses (HRI) include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. These are preventable conditions, but are common hazards in the Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishing Sector. Many outdoor workers are at increased risk for HRI as they perform strenuous activities in hot environments for prolonged periods. Precautions including sufficient hydration, acclimatization or adjusting to changes in climate, and awareness of HRI symptoms and treatment are effective in preventing negative health effects and death. However, it takes multilayered efforts in research, translation, and education to combat elevated heat exposures in agricultural, forestry and fishing. The following are a few HRI projects underway at various Ag Centers.
Florida: Heat Stress and Biomarkers of Renal Disease
Recently, agricultural workers in Central America have experienced a well-documented increase in chronic kidney disease. Many claim their work in hot environments and persistent dehydration leads to adverse renal or kidney-related effects. However, there is limited understanding of the underlying biological processes associated with this problem. Agricultural workers in the United States are also at risk, particularly in states with hot, extended growing seasons.
This study measures physiological indicators of HRI in Florida farmworkers and includes metabolomics analyses to determine negative pathways or associations to renal impairment. Researchers are exploring whether biomarkers or biological indicators of renal damage are present in Mexican migrant farmworkers living in the United States when compared with Mexican migrant workers not in agriculture. They are recruiting 70 agricultural workers and 30 individuals of similar heritage who do not work in heat-intensive agricultural activities.
By describing the occupational environment of these workers, along with their body anthropometrics or human body measurements, dehydration levels, and self-reported HRI symptoms, investigators hope to determine if biomarkers indicating kidney injury are present. If so, the scientists will focus on whether these biomarkers differ in agricultural workers when compared to workers not employed in agriculture. This is the first study to document the extent of association between heat exposure and chronic kidney disease in a U.S. migrant farmworker population. Researchers aim to better describe the possible metabolic pathways affected by heat exposure.
Texas: The Impact of Thermal Load on Shrimp Fishermen’s Use of Personal Flotation Devices
Falls overboard are the second most frequent cause of death in the U.S. commercial fishing industry and the leading cause of death in southeastern shrimp fisheries, accounting for 61% of worker fatalities. The long-term goal of this project is to increase the routine use of personal floatation devices (PFDs) among Vietnamese commercial shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and, consequently, reduce falls-overboard fatalities in commercial fisheries.
Findings from a prior study showed that increased thermal load while working was a major barrier to wearing PFDs in the commercial fishing industry. The objective of this translation project is to test the impact of heat on use of these devices. The investigators will also design and test a multimodal and culturally appropriate social marketing campaign to increase adoption of Occupational Safety and Health Administration/NIOSH recommendations for heat stress reduction and increase comfort, access, and acceptability of PFDs. By reducing the impact of heat stress while working, researchers hope fishermen will be more likely to wear PFDs. Overall, this study aims to (1) understand, measure, and compare physiological responses to the thermal environment and heat stress symptoms, with and without PFDs, and cooling devices among Vietnamese shrimp fishermen, and (2) identify commercially available personal cooling equipment designs that have demonstrated comfort and workability.
Washington: A Multilevel Approach to Heat-related Illness Prevention in Agricultural Workers
This project will develop and evaluate a multilevel approach to HRI prevention in agricultural workers. It builds on the Center’s previous HRI work with Washington tree-fruit growers and farmworkers who are largely foreign-born, Spanish-speaking workers. The current study relies on an advisory group that includes workers, farm managers, and other stakeholders to guide the development, test¬ing, and dissemination of an intervention.
The project will focus on participatory worker HRI education to address risk factors for agricultural workers at individual, workplace, and community levels. This intervention will include tailored recommendations for tree-fruit growers on how to reduce HRI risk on hot workdays, which will be developed using data from Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet weather station network. Researchers will create a final consensus document for workers with recommendations for multilevel HRI risk factor assessment and intervention development. The Center plans to distribute the recommendations to workers, growers, housing and healthcare stakeholders, scientists, and public health practitioners.
National Center for Construction Research and Training
CPWR—The 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 FY2018, 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, 2017, to September 30, 2018, CPWR published eight 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 Data Center Leading the Way in Construction Safety and Health Surveillance
CPWR’s Data Center is prominent in tracking industry, employment, and safety and health outcome trends in construction, using mostly nationally representative datasets. The Center analyzes data from more than 40 sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, NIOSH Occupational Hearing Loss (OHL) Worker Surveillance Data, National Occupational Mortality Surveillance System, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Inspection Data, and OSHA Chemical Exposure Health Data.
Through this effort, CPWR increases its construction safety and health knowledge and fills gaps in research literature, as well as provides construction stakeholders with important, timely data. In FY2018, CPWR used these data to develop the sixth edition of The Construction Chart Book – The U.S. Construction Industry and Its Workers. This publication contains the most complete data available on all aspects of the U.S. construction industry including figures related to economics, demographics, employment/income, education/training, and safety and health issues. Additionally, CPWR’s Data Center researchers coded all construction death cases investigated by the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program between 1982 and 2015 into a database. Partnering with NIOSH, CPWR published the findings of this project in the Journal of Safety Research and in Accident Analysis & Prevention.
The Center also develops and distributes Quarterly Data Reports (QDRs) on high priority topics, such as the increased burden of fatal injuries among small construction employers. The QDRs have been cited in articles in Safety+Health Magazine, Construction Dive, Bloomberg Law, etc. Next steps for the Data Center are expanding its surveillance efforts to include research on sustainable employability, intervention effectiveness, prevention through design, longitudinal mortality study, and substance abuse.
The Exposure Control Database
Despite the need, the construction industry lacked an easy-to-use, publicly available data system to proactively estimate exposures to common hazards and then apply effective controls to mitigate them. To bridge the gap, CPWR developed the Exposure Control Database (ECD)—an interactive web-based tool designed to help estimate exposure to major health hazards, including respirable silica, welding fumes, noise, and lead. This system uses a predefined list of evidence-based search variables to retrieve objective exposure measurements based on user input. It then approximates likely exposure to the selected hazard and supplements these data with graphical displays. CPWR developed the database in collaboration with NIOSH researchers through the CPWR/NIOSH Engineering Control Workgroup. The ECD has largely been populated with objective exposure measurements from peer-reviewed literature and NIOSH reports, as well as measurements collected by CPWR’s industry partners. The database officially launched on August 30, 2018. Since its inception, more than 1,400 people from 35 countries have accessed the database more than 2,000 times. These users represent universities, government agencies, general contractors, insurance companies, and labor unions.
Exploring Emerging Issues in Construction Through Small Studies
The CPWR Small Study Program is unique because it creates opportunities to explore promising technologies or policy interventions and investigate emerging hazards on construction worker safety and health without significant use of time or resources. During the 25 years of operating this program, CPWR received 284 letters of intent and funded 119 studies that each lasted up to one year. This research represents an array of topics, organizations, beneficiaries, and locations. For example, one small study explored awareness of nano-enabled construction products in heavy industrial/commercial construction. In this study, while most of those surveyed recognized terms like “nanotechnology” and “nanoparticles,” only 25% of them knew these materials are used in construction materials. However, when shown a list of nano-enabled construction products, 44% of survey respondents recognized or had used these products. Small studies like this have supported the need for training on emerging hazards while other studies have informed the design of important large-scale research.
During FY2018, CPWR funded eight small studies centered on topics such as (1) identifying fall hazards with drones, (2) preventing risks to solar power system installers at the design phase, (3) adapting mix-reality technologies to visualize possible workplace locations of dangerous situations, (4) implementing work-zone safety through mobile technology, (5) evaluating new policy changes on worker safety outcomes, and (6) exploring construction workforce sustainability. Many investigators have entered the field of construction safety and health research through a CPWR small study. More than 60% of small study recipients published their findings in peer-reviewed journals.
Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health®
In FY2018, NIOSH funded six Centers of Excellence, located throughout the United States, 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. TWH principles 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.
- Examining the relationships between workplace policies and practices and worker health outcomes.
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. They also have initiatives focused on small business. 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, 2017, to September 30, 2018, the Centers of Excellence published 39 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.
Thousands of Healthcare Providers Take Training to Help Prevent Opioid Misuse
The effects of opioid use and misuse are not isolated to work or home environments and the potential for addiction may be preceded by injuries that occur in the workplace. By using TWH principles, NIOSH is developing solutions to help workers and employers facing this epidemic in their communities. NIOSH-funded grantees and other partners are working to address the opioid crisis. In collaboration with partners, the Center for Health, Work & Environment and the Mountain and Plains ERC at the Colorado School of Public Health developed an evidence-based course to share best practices for treating patients experiencing pain while monitoring for and managing risks for opioid misuse and overdose. Intended for a healthcare audience, the course features guidelines for assessing patients, developing a comprehensive treatment plan, using first-line therapies, initiating an opioid trial and regimen, and preventing the diversion of legally prescribed or acquired opioid medications for unintended or illegal use. The course specifically addresses the management of pain in worker populations.
This two-hour webinar provides Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for medical providers and prescribers. So far, nearly 3,000 healthcare workers have taken this training and received CME credits, and within the next five years, the Center plans to reach 10,000 medical providers. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies included the course in its policies as a mandatory requirement for four healthcare-related professional licenses. The Colorado Medical Society also endorsed it. Additionally, the Colorado State Division of Workers’ Compensation is requiring medical providers who treat injured workers to take the course, as is the state-based workers’ compensation insurer, Pinnacol Assurance.
New Assessment Tool Evaluates Effectiveness of Workplace Safety and Health Programs
As more organizations offer increasingly comprehensive programs for workplace safety and health, researchers and organizations alike look for the best examples and tools to measure their effectiveness. With so many programs available, how do organizations know which one is best? Through a study, the Harvard Center for Work, Health, and Well-being designed a new tool to help. The Workplace Integrated Safety and Health (WISH) Assessment measures policies, programs, and practices that promote worker safety, health, and well-being.
The WISH Assessment is an expansion of a previous measurement tool, developed by the same researchers in this study. These scientists created this latest assessment tool based on an extensive review of published literature on workplace wellness programs, repeated cognitive testing, and semi-structured interviews. They tested and revised the WISH Assessment to ensure that its elements were clearly understood and effectively measured the intended concepts. The tool was finalized after identifying six factors for protecting and promoting worker safety, health, and well-being: (1) leadership commitment; (2) participation; (3) policies, programs, and practices that foster supportive working conditions; (4) comprehensive and collaborative strategies; (5) adherence to federal and state regulations and ethical norms; and (6) regular evaluations that guide safety, health, and well-being activities.
Ultimately, the assessment could help direct priorities among organizations and guide research in workplace policies, programs, and practices to improve worker well-being. Next steps include additional testing on the WISH Assessment to validate the tool across multiple samples and designing and testing a scoring system that organizations can use. Harvard researchers are planning to use the WISH Assessment in a future study focused on the association between TWH approaches and quality-of-care outcomes in 500 nursing homes.
Computer Simulation Helps Manufacturing Company Improve Safety and Health
How do manufacturing companies know the best and safest way to design workplaces and assign tasks? Ideally, injuries and illnesses should be prevented, but historically, companies have adjusted their workplace policies, practices, and procedures after an injury or illness occurred. The University of Iowa Healthier Workforce Center tested the role of computer simulation in promoting workers’ well-being by designing safer work. Known as digital human modeling, the simulation can help predict behavior and hazards and evaluate work design, without putting workers at risk or creating costly physical mock-ups.
Researchers collaborated for a year with a manufacturing company to examine digital human modeling in a real-world setting. Using a commercially available software, researchers simulated seven distinct work tasks to identify risks for musculoskeletal disorders and develop and evaluate workstation designs to reduce risks. They also looked at the connection between nonwork-related risks like body mass index and work-related tasks. The manufacturing company used the findings from this study to update its training procedures and cart-loading recommendations. It also used digital human modeling to redesign its workstations.
Researchers determined that digital human modeling could help identify work-related risks, especially in scenarios that are difficult to assess with traditional approaches. However, these scientists caution that more research is needed to understand additional uses and barriers for using digital human modeling to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/24725838.2018.1491430?journal Code=uehf21external icon
SHIFT Project Leads to Increased Union Engagement in Workplace Health and Safety Committees
In the New England area, six healthcare facilities now have local labor unions more engaged with their health and safety initiatives. This move followed research from the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW). In the study, a revised version of CPH-NEW’s Healthy Workplace Participatory Program was put into place in these facilities. The Safety & Health through Integrated, Facilitated Teams (SHIFT)external icon study evaluated this intervention’s effectiveness in increasing the engagement and impact of combined, labor-management health and safety committees.
Prior to SHIFT, the six facilities had committees in place, but they did not meet regularly and had limited labor union involvement. Now, the committees’ active membership includes labor unions, and committee cofacilitators are union bargaining unit members. The committees consist of 8–12 workers, with more than half of them in nonmanagement roles, and they now meet more frequently. Following SHIFT, organizational leaders are also more involved in workplace health and safety efforts, with one leader from each facility serving as a liaison between management, the committee, and the SHIFT research team.
Sleep and Workplace Safety Practices Among Construction Workers
The NIOSH TWH Program looks for ways that organizations can improve worker health and well-being, on and off the job. One aspect of home that overlaps into work is sleep. Healthy sleep is critical for worker safety and well-being, especially for work, such as construction, which requires following many safety procedures. Knowing how lack of sleep affects safety behaviors and how to design effective, organizational-level interventions can improve worker health and safety.
The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center looked at the relationship between self-reported sleep and lapses in attention, memory, and action at work that could impact safety. Researchers referred to these lapses as cognitive or thought failures. Sleep behavior included quantity or duration and quality, which is the feeling of being rested. Sleep behavior also includes the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. To increase understanding of how these factors relate, the study looked at workers’ sleep quantity and quality and workplace safety behaviors, including participation in safety procedures. The study also looked at reports of minor injuries, such as cuts, bruises, or sprains, which did not cause workers to miss work, whether the injury required first aid or not.
The study used information from three surveys conducted during 2012–2013, which were completed by more than 318 construction workers. Results suggest that workers with more insomnia symptoms are less likely to follow required and voluntary safety behaviors and are at higher risk for minor workplace injuries due to cognitive failures. In addition, workers who reported not feeling well rested upon waking, on average, also reported that they were less likely to follow safety procedures. These findings indicate that organizations can improve safety with tools to reduce insomnia symptoms and improve sleep. Researchers’ next steps include studying how to reduce workers’ insomnia symptoms and improve their ability to fall and stay asleep, as well as studying how sleep influences day-to-day safety behavior and more serious workplace injuries.
Focusing on Community to Improve Worker Health
Workplaces can play a large role in improving worker health, resulting in improved community health. But how can workplaces and communities interact to influence the overall health of workers? Can workers in precarious work arrangements, often characterized by low wages and few or no benefits, rely on their communities to help them in protecting and promoting safer and healthier work?
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Center for Healthy Work is exploring how to implement safer and healthier approaches to work that extend into the community. Researchers at the Center are engaging with local neighborhoods, especially those with residents in precarious work, to find ways to improve worker health at the community level. To identify what works, they are using a community health survey, focus groups, interviews, and an approach called concept mapping. Concept mapping creates a visual representation of participants’ thoughts about and priorities between health and work. By engaging directly with communities and their workers, researchers can continue to raise awareness of the relationship between communities, work, and health, as well as develop new TWH interventions. The Center’s next steps include intervention mapping, which plots evidenced-based interventions to specific community needs.
Education and Research Centers
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, post-graduate, and research 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, as well as academic programs. Programs respond to area needs and carry out new strategies and initiatives 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 91-596external icon) 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, 2017, to September 30, 2018, the ERCs published 259 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 2017–2018, 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 students enrolled increased from 732 in FY2017 to 993 in FY2018. The table below shows the number of students enrolled, graduates, and employment status during FY2018.
Table. ERC Trainees, Graduates, and Employment, FY2018
|Program Area||Enrolled||Graduates||Employed or seeking occupational
safety and health employment (%)
|Industrial Hygiene||326||110||110 (100)|
|Occupational Health Nursing||128||41||35 (85)|
|Occupational Medicine||113||36||36 (100)|
|Occupational Safety||172||47||45 (96)|
|Other Related Disciplines||254||68||67 (99)|
The table below shows the placement of FY2018 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 Graduate employment by work setting, FY2018
Table. Continuing Education Courses by discipline, FY2018
|Occupational Health Nursing||213||6,569||31,262|
|Ag Safety and Health||0||0||0|
Continuing Education Outputs
Continuing education of occupational safety and health professionals is a required part of ERC 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 table above shows the continuing education activity by discipline. In FY2018, ERCs provided 359,204 person hours of training to 46,504 occupational safety and health professionals who took 1,760 courses.
ERC Program Achievements
Link Found Between Prescription Drug Use Before and After Injury
Workers taking opioids or benzodiazepines (anxiety medications) prior to a work-related injury were more likely than other workers to continue taking the drugs after the injury, according to a 2018 publication from the University of Washington ERC. Additionally, these workers were also more likely to receive workers’ compensation, reports the study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. To better respond to the nationwide opioid crisis, NIOSH supports research on work-related factors on the use of these drugs.
In one of the first large studies of pre- and post-injury use of opioids and benzodiazepines, researchers wanted to understand whether taking either drug before a work-related injury affected later use. They also aimed to find if pre-injury use affected the likelihood of receiving workers’ compensation. The study looked at 313,543 workers’ compensation claims from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries with dates of injury from January 2012 through December 2015. Researchers also reviewed records from the Washington State Prescription Monitoring Program for opioids and benzodiazepines.
The design of this study only shows a relationship, not cause and effect, between pre- and post-injury use of opioids and benzodiazepines. Nevertheless, the study’s findings indicate that the risk for long-term disability after a work-related injury may be greater among workers already taking opioids or benzodiazepines than among those who do not take them.
https://journals.lww.com/joem/Fulltext/2018/09000/Opioid_and_ Benzodiazepine_Use_Before_Injury_ Among.9.aspxexternal icon
Trainees Help Improve Workplace Safety for Los Angeles Transit Workers
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of Los Angeles is now using engineering controls developed by ERC trainees at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). MTA is using these controls or strategies to protect its 260 workers from hazardous noise and welding fumes. This happened following a site visit where all the trainees completed a walk-through of the MTA maintenance facilities and identified occupational health and safety hazards. These included dangerous chemicals, hazardous noise levels, and risks of musculoskeletal disorders. After collecting this information, the ERC trainees and faculty discussed and recommended potential controls of these workplace hazards that the MTA could use to improve worker safety, health and well-being. UCLA planned this industrial site visit to educate its trainees and help them develop into effective occupational safety and health professionals.
Effects of Shift Work on Police and Security Workers
For law enforcement officers, inadequate sleep can be a problem due to shift work, long work hours, and scheduling conflicts— all factors resulting in sleep deprivation and other sleep issues. Police officers who do not get adequate, quality sleep are at risk for motor vehicle crashes due to drowsy driving, as well as other health effects. To address this issue, a trainee at the New York and New Jersey ERC (Mount Sinai School of Medicine) led a study focused on how permanent or nonrotating shifts and extended work hours (12-hour) affect police and security workers. The research assessed alertness, sleep, and wellness among 39 police and security officers who had been working in 8- and 12-hour permanent shifts for at least five years.
Across the nation, police agencies are increasingly adopting these type of work arrangements. It has been widely assumed that extended hours benefit workers because they have more days off and that permanent shifts lead to more stable sleep patterns. However, according to this study’s findings, these arrangements are associated with increased sleep problems and decreased mental attention. The scientists found that 12-hour shifts had more negative health effects than 8-hour shifts and presented these results at the 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association.
Long-haul Trucking Survey Describes Common Injuries
The combination of long hours of sitting punctuated by periods of loading and unloading heavy goods makes long-haul trucking one of the highest-risk occupations for musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries occur nearly four times more often among long-haul truck drivers than among other workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statisticsexternal icon. Despite the higher risk, little information is available about the types of injuries that affect long-haul truck drivers. Which injuries are the most common? How do they occur?
To answer these questions, a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham ERC analyzed information from the 2010 NIOSH National Survey on Long-haul Truck Drivers. The large-scale survey comprised 1,265 long-haul truck drivers in 32 truck stops in five regions nationwide: the South, Great Lakes, Central, West, and Northeast. Researchers required all survey participants to have worked as a driver on a large truck (three or more axles) for at least 12 months.
Of the truck drivers who completed the survey, 95 (7.5%) reported experiencing work-related injuries over the past year. The most common types of injuries were sprains and strains, accounting for 60% of injuries reported in the survey. The arms were the most commonly affected body part, making up 26% of all musculoskeletal injuries reported, followed by the back at 21%. Looking at cause, most of the musculoskeletal injuries reported (39%) stemmed from falls, followed by contact with an object or equipment (34%).
The findings from this large-scale survey underscore the importance of developing ways to prevent musculoskeletal injuries among long-haul truck drivers. In FY2018, this study appeared in the journal Workplace Health & Safety.