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Program Description

One of the best ways to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is to eliminate hazards and minimize risks early in the design or re-design process and incorporate methods of safe design into all phases of hazard and risk mitigation. Although a long history of designing for safety for the general public exists in the U.S., less attention has gone to factoring the safety, health and well-being of workers into the design, re-design and retrofit of new and existing workplaces, tools and equipment, and work processes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) currently leads a nationwide initiative called Prevention through Design (PtD). PtD addresses occupational safety and health needs by eliminating hazards and minimizing risks to workers throughout the life cycle of work premises, tools, equipment, machinery, substances, and work processes including their construction, manufacture, use, maintenance, and ultimate disposal or re-use. A growing number of business leaders recognize PtD as a cost-effective means to enhance occupational safety and health. Many U.S. companies openly support PtD concepts and have developed management practices to implement them.

The persistence in the U.S. of a large occupational morbidity, mortality, and injury burden demonstrates the need for a more concerted effort to reduce workplace risks than has been attempted in the past. The strategic plan outlined in this document establishes goals for the successful implementation of the PtD Plan for the National Initiative . This comprehensive approach, which includes worker health and safety in all aspects of design, redesign and retrofit, will provide a vital framework for saving lives and preventing work-related injuries and illnesses.

Program Mission

The mission of the Prevention through Design National initiative is to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the inclusion of prevention considerations in all designs that impact workers. The mission can be achieved by:

  • Eliminating hazards and controlling risks to workers to an acceptable level “at the source” or as early as possible in the life cycle of items or workplaces.
  • Including design, redesign and retrofit of new and existing work premises, structures, tools, facilities, equipment, machinery, products, substances, work processes and the organization of work.
  • Enhancing the work environment through the inclusion of prevention methods in all designs that impact workers and others on the premises.

The program strives to fulfill its mission through the following principles:

  • High-Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational injuries and illnesses among workers in the Prevention through Design cross-sector.
  • Practical Solutions: The NIOSH program for the Prevention through Design cross-sector is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in this sector. One source of practical recommendations is the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluations (HHE) program . NIOSH conducts HHEs at individual worksites to find out whether there are health hazards to employees caused by exposures or conditions in the workplace.
  • Partnerships: We recognize that collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are usually the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH program for the Prevention through Design cross-sector.
  • Research to Practice ( r2p ): We believe that our research only realizes its true value when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH program for the Prevention through Design cross-sector formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace.