FY 2020 Extramural Research Program Highlights: Training Programs
Specialty Training Programs
NIOSH funds the TPGs, the Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Training Grants funded at the end of FY 2019, and the Miner Safety and Health Training Program—Western United States cooperative agreement. Selected highlights from TPGs and the Miner Safety and Health Training Program—Western United States are provided below.
On this page, you will research highlights for our:
- Training Project Grants
- Emergency Responder Training Program
- Miner Safety and Health Training Program
You can also find the information on this page in the NIOSH Extramural Research and Training Program: Annual Report of Fiscal Year 2020.
NIOSH supports training in occupational safety and health through TPGs. Most TPGs are academic training programs that support undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate training. Located throughout the United States, 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’ Occupational Health Internship Program. This program supplies specialty training and increases diversity among health and safety practitioners by recruiting and mentoring students from underrepresented and underserved minorities.
Through a TPG, the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association expands the network of port-based fishing safety instructors in Alaska and the United States. 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 IAFF, which this report later discusses.
NIOSH Training Project Grants by Discipline
TPGs offer an important service by providing enough qualified professionals to carry out the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970. TPGs 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 2030—to promote the health and well-being of the workforce. TPGs also serve as important resources on job-related safety and health issues for business, labor, government, and the 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, 2019, through September 30, 2020, the TPG researchers published 21 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 2019–2020, the TPG academic training programs had 859 trainees, of which 259 graduated 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. These current figures reflect an increase from the FY 2019 number of trainees (787) and graduates (256).
Table. Training project grant trainees, graduates, and employment by discipline, FY 2019
|Program Area||Trainees||Graduates||Employed in occupational safety and health
field or seeking advanced training (%)
|Industrial Hygiene||286||78||78 (100)|
|Occupational Safety||233||83||79 (95)|
|Occupational Medicine||42||22||22 (100)|
|Allied Disciplines||298||76||73 (96)|
Training Project Grant (TPG) Program Achievements
Study on Indoor Portable Air Cleaners and Wildfire Safety
In the United States, the wildfire season continues to intensify in severity and duration, particularly out west. Wildfire smoke contains dangerous chemicals—mostly fine particulate matter or PM2.5—a harmful substance that can stay in the air for long periods. People can inhale it deep into their lungs, and studies show PM2.5 is linked to systemic inflammation and disorders affecting the heart and lungs; it is linked to increased fatalities.
Public health recommendations for wildfires include using an indoor portable air cleaner that removes particulate matter from rooms by moving air through a filter. According to research, this type of device can decrease PM2.5 levels in homes caused by wildfire smoke. However, data are limited on exposure to wildfire-sourced PM2.5 in office settings. Led by one of its trainees, the Montana Technological University TPG studied the effectiveness of an indoor portable air cleaner in decreasing PM2.5 in offices and explored connections between outdoor and indoor PM2.5 levels during wildfires. Researchers found concentrations of PM2.5 in offices were like those reported outside by a local National Ambient Air Quality Standards monitoring station during a Pacific Northwest wildfire. Scientists compared two identical offices—one with the device and one without it—during wildfire season. The portable air cleaner reduced the amount of PM2.5 inside the office by 73% during working hours and 92% during nonworking hours.
These findings show that indoor work areas, like offices, can have high PM2.5 levels during wildfires, but a portable air cleaner can lessen the problem and protect health. Researchers also created a method to improve their measuring instruments by correcting for overestimated PM2.5 levels. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene featured this study in FY 2020, and more than 500 people have read about the project.
- Control of Wildfire-sourced PM5 in an Office Setting Using a Commercially Available Portable Air Cleaner
- Outside NIOSH: Portable Air Cleaners: Making Indoor Work Safer During Wildfires
Training Successes from Texas A&M University
The Occupational Safety and Health Training Program at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center School of Public Health is a TPG, offering graduate training with concentrations in worker safety, health, and ergonomics. Trainees gain knowledge and skills in varied occupational safety and health areas including workplace wellness, occupational disease, ergonomics, user-computer interaction, industrial hygiene, industrial process safety, epidemiology, and other areas.
In FY 2020, TPG trainees completed research and developed new tools related to the safety, design, and human factors of the workplace. They worked with the Texas A&M Ergo Center and provided ergonomics task analysis and job description information, which allowed the center to examine university workers’ varied postures on the job. Trainees also provided ergonomic evaluations at a local area hospital and for university employees who requested these to identify risks like repetitive tasks that can cause strains or other issues that cause musculoskeletal disorders. These types of professional practice experiences provide invaluable training and leads to employment opportunities. In FY 2020, all 21 TPG graduates from Texas A&M were hired in OSH positions at the time they obtained their degrees or shortly after. These graduates are also eligible to apply for the Certified Safety Professional® credential because the Occupational Safety and Health Training Program is accredited through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.
Increasing Diversity in Occupational Safety and Environmental Health
Recruitment of minority students marks a key focus for the Western Kentucky University TPG. This grant helps to support undergraduate and graduate students in the university’s Environmental and Occupational Health Science (EOHS) Program. These trainees gain knowledge and experience in public health, environmental health, occupational safety and health, environmental science and compliance, and injury and illness prevention. The Western Kentucky University TPG carried out strategies in FY 2020 to recruit, train, and retain minority trainees in the program, with the goal of increasing diversity in both occupational safety and health and environmental health. Key strategies for recruiting minority undergraduate students included participating in college recruitment fairs and promoting the program’s scholarships and professional opportunities. The TPG targeted high school students taking college courses and college students taking general EOHS courses. To recruit minority graduate students, TPG staff gave presentations during EOHS upper-level courses, promoted the program through the university’s graduate school, and participated in the graduate school’s recruitment events. Information that the Western Kentucky University TPG recently obtained from interested parties, including environmental and occupational health managers, revealed an ongoing regional need for EOHS professionals. Its past graduates are currently working in these types of positions and impacting worker health in Kentucky and beyond.
Through the IAFF, NIOSH supports a nationwide program to enhance the capabilities of firefighters engaged in emergency response through training. The training is site- and trade-specific and aims to reduce on-the-job injuries, illnesses, and fatalities related to emergency response. Therefore, responders are better able to protect the communities they serve.
The IAFF has a long working relationship with NIOSH. IAFF’s Emergency Responder Training Program is 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 firefighters make each and every day.
This federally funded training program serves as an excellent model for an effective first responders training program. With a team of instructors who are both certified fire service instructors and hazardous materials (HazMat) responders, IAFF provides real-world training in HazMat response. Furthermore, 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, IAFF developed an Opioid Crisis Toolkit, which uses the protocols, state-of-the-art responses, and resources available to firefighters.
In FY 2020, IAFF delivered 63 classes to 1,231 students, totaling 21,608 contact hours.
Table. Emergency responder training classes, FY 2020
|Confined Space Operations||24 hours||3||57||1,368|
|Emergency Response to Terrorism: Operations||8 hours||13||266||2,128|
|First Responder Operations||24 hours||34||678||16,272|
|Illicit Drug Labs||8 hours||13||230||1,840|
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 United States since 1999.
For FY 2020, two programs were funded in the Western United States: the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Arizona. This training provides a joint approach to reducing occupational illnesses, injuries, and fatalities 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 OSHA and MSHA guidelines, without duplicating these agencies’ existing trainings.
Recent research shows that 24 mining workers died in 2019—the lowest number of fatalities in MSHA’s 43-year history. In 2020, there were 29 mining deaths, making it the sixth consecutive year in the agency’s history that mining industry fatality numbers were below 30. While this improvement cannot be solely attributed to effective safety training, such interventions likely contribute to these outcomes. In a recent evaluation of the NIOSH Mining Program, it is noted that MSHA takes advantage of knowledge and products provided by the NIOSH-funded Miner Safety and Health Training Program—Western United States.
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 representing 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. During FY 2020, the program trained 984 mine workers through 84 courses. Due to challenges related to COVID-19, training numbers were lower than in FY 2019 when 1,538 mine workers received training through 67 courses. Trainees included miners, supervisors, and undergraduate and graduate engineering and geology students. The program 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. Trainers across all mining service sectors throughout the Western United States have been taught ways to improve safety training. These activities improve the transfer of best safety practices to the workplace while increasing the number of workers served.
New Online Courses for Professionals in Mining Safety and Health
The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) offers a broad Professional Development Curriculum that aims to increase trainers’ and safety and health professionals’ capacity to train mining workers. The curriculum achieves this goal by increasing the technical skills and knowledge of trainers and other professionals and has been offered through the following ways since 2018:
- Train-the-Trainer Presentations on varied topics including engineering controls, exposure assessment and hazard recognition, instructor coaching, training methodologies, and adult education.
- Short Courses on topics required by MSHA to be taught during its 30 CFR Part 48 trainings.
- Joint Industry Training that links management and labor to participate in productive discussions on safety and health issues pertinent to their individual operations.
- Safety and Health Training Courses to improve the effectiveness of safety and health programs and/or safety management systems.
- Webinar Series that focuses on current relevant safety and health topics.
In FY 2020, CSM created four online courses under the Professional Development Curriculum and offers them on the CSM website. These classes are called (1) Hazardous Particulates, (2) Safety Management Systems [Part 1 and 2], (3) MSHA 101 [Part 1 and 2], and (4) Sleep: The Most Important Component of Safe Behavior. CSM also held other training activities that included some of these course topics, such as two presentations at the 15th Annual Mine Safety & Health Conference in October, 2019, in Reno, Nevada. More than 90 people attended the two presentations:
“Sleep: The Most Important Component of Safe Behavior” and “Energy, Mining, and Construction Industry Safety (EMCIS) Training: Fun—Not Funny.” CSM staff offered ”EMCIS Training: Fun—Not Funny” and another presentation, “Your Brain on Stress and Fatigue,” to nearly 50 members of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration via a webinar. The CSM program reports many conference and webinar attendees requested slides following the events.
New Gaming Software Features Enhance Training and Evaluation of Performance
The University of Arizona added a new feature to its computer-based serious gaming software such as “Harry’s Hard Choices” and “Harry’s Hazardous Day” during FY 2020. This software is used to provide engaging training in miner safety and health through games that lead to increased knowledge transfer. The new feature is a series of game mechanics or computerized rules that guide trainees’ actions and tasks they are given while using the game, along with game advancement strategies. These mechanics provide a competency-based evaluation or assessment of trainees’ performance during the game, using this assessment to improve the training.
The gaming software is based on the university’s Mine Health and Safety Competency Model—a five-tiered approach to occupational safety. The mechanics assess trainees’ performance on gaming tasks, providing measures in the areas of (1) skills and abilities, (2) derived attributes based on personality assessments, (3) core attributes based on behavioral tendencies and talents, and (4) class or knowledge of certain jobs or professions. University staff created these mechanics using methodology proven successful in the genre of role‐playing games, which includes the university’s serious games that train workers through avatars in simulated scenarios. Through this new feature, trainees’ choices and behaviors in the game determine their avatars’ assigned knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes, along with specific tasks they are asked to complete, and guide the feedback, rewards and penalties received during the game.