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Prevention through Design logo

Outputs: Research to Practice

Historically, NIOSH has been a leader in applying research into workplace solutions that reduce injury and illness. Research to Practice (r2p) is a NIOSH initiative focused on the transfer and translation of research findings, technologies, and information into highly effective prevention practices and products which are adopted in the workplace.

The goal of r2p is to increase workplace use of effective NIOSH and NIOSH-funded research findings. NIOSH continues to work with our partners to focus research on ways to develop effective products, translate research findings into practice, target dissemination efforts, and evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of these efforts in improving worker health and safety.

The following examples illustrate ways NIOSH research was translated into practice in the Prevention through Design Cross-sector:

Mechanical devices reduce risks to workers and improve patient safety

The ergonomic hazards associated with lifting present significant risk to health care workers in the U.S. In 2003 alone, caregivers suffered 211,000 occupational injuries. As the population ages and the demand for skilled care services continues to rise, the incidences of musculoskeletal injuries to the back, shoulder, and upper extremities of caregivers will also increase. Lifting without the assistance of mechanical devices can also compromise the safety and comfort of patients.

A NIOSH study evaluated the effectiveness of a safe resident lifting and movement intervention in six nursing homes. After investing $158,556 for patient lifting and handling equipment and worker training, lost workday injuries fell by 66%, restricted workdays dropped 38%, and workers’ compensation expenses were reduced 61%. The initial investment for the lifting and handling equipment and worker training was recovered in less than three years based on post-intervention savings of $55,000 annually in workers’ compensation costs.

Man using mechanical lifting device

Preventing injury through effective design: Mechanical lifting devices reduce risk of back injuries to health care workers and improve patient safety and comfort.

Source: NIOSH [2006]. Safe Lifting and Movement of Nursing Home Residents. By Collins JW, Nelson A, Sublet V. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2006 – 177.

Prevention through Partnerships: Industry-wide equipment design changes protect workers’ health

More than half a million workers in the U.S. face exposure to fumes from asphalt, a petroleum product used extensively in road paving, roofing, siding, and concrete work. Health effects from exposure to asphalt fumes include headache, skin rash, sensitization, fatigue, reduced appetite, throat and eye irritation, cough, and skin cancer.

In the mid-1990s, The National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) collaborated with industry partners to address concerns about the hazards of asphalt fumes for paving-site workers. This partnership resulted in U.S. industry-wide effort to design, lab-test, field-test, and validate engineering control modifications to highway-class paving machines to remove fumes from the vicinity of workers. The industry partners signed a voluntary agreement with OSHA to include these ventilation controls into every U.S. – manufactured highway-class paver.

Before and after photos of asphalt fume emissions from highway-class pavers

Before and after photos of asphalt fume emissions from highway-class pavers.

Source: Cervarich MB [2008] Prevention through Partnerships. PtD in Motion, Issue 2.

Designing-out Existing Noise Hazard: Protecting miners’ hearing while experiencing a positive return on investment

Overexposure to noise remains a widespread and serious health hazard to workers in many U.S. industries. Hearing loss is permanent and can lead to poor verbal communication and the inability to recognize warning signals. Workers who experience hearing loss can also suffer from increased stress and fatigue.

In underground coal mining, the operation of continuous mining machines – which cut and gather coal – pose a significant risk to miners’ health. These machines contain an onboard conveyor consisting of a chain with flight bars that drag the coal along the base of the conveyor system. The chain creates excessive noise at it makes contact with the metal base and the coal. Mine operators working in proximity of the machine are at risk of permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

An innovative Prevention through Design solution calls for coating the chain conveyor and flight bars with a heavy-duty, highly durable urethane. The re-designed chain conveyor and flight bars decrease noise exposures of continuous mining machine operators by 3 dB(A). This PtD redesign also increases the chain life by a factor of three, more than off-setting the 20% cost increase of coating the chain.
[Kovalchik PG et al. 2008]

Continuous coal mining machine

Design improvements to the onboard conveyor of a continuous coal mining machine reduce noise exposures. Coating the chain conveyor and flight bars protect mine operators’ hearing and extends the life of the chain.

Source: Kovalchik PG, Matetic RJ, Smith, AK, Bealko SB [2008]. Application of Prevention through Design for Hearing Loss in the Mining Industry. Journal of Safety Research 39(2): 251–254.

Safety on the Seas: E-stop on fishing vessels reduces risk of serious injury or death

Commercial Fishing is the most dangerous occupation in the United States. Its occupational fatality rate – 142 per 100,000 workers – is 36 times higher than the average fatality rate for all U.S. workers. Fatal deck injuries, caused by unsafe machinery and equipment, remain a significant problem in the industry.

In Alaska, deck injuries result in approximately 12% of all commercial fishing fatalities and 67% of severe, hospitalized injuries. Entanglements – especially those associated with powerful, capstan-type winches used to reel in large fishing nets – pose a significant threat to deck workers in the commercial fishing industry.

The capstan winch is usually mounted in the center of the deck. The winch’s drum rotates while the crew works on deck. Fisherman who lose their balance or are inattentive can become caught in the fishing line as it winds around the drum. The winch provides no entanglement protection and the controls are usually out of reach of the entrapped person.

A unique “Prevention through Design” solution – an emergency-stop (“e-stop”) system situated on the top of the winch – addresses the serious machinery hazard posed by a capstan deck winch. When pushed, the emergency switch arrests the drum’s rotation in less than 180 degrees rotation, sufficient to limit serious entanglement injury. Vessel owners who have the e-stop installed on their winches recommend it enthusiastically to other fishermen.

A capstan-type winch with fishing lines wound around

A capstan-type winch with fishing lines wound around.

A fishing vessel captain demonstrating the use of an emergency-stop mounted on the winch

A fishing vessel captain demonstrating the use of an emergency-stop (e-stop) mounted on the winch.

Source: Lincoln JM, Lucas DL, McKibbin RW, Woodward CC, Bevan JE [2008]. Reducing Commercial Fishing Deck Hazards with Engineering Solutions for Winch Design. Journal of Safety Research 39(2): 231 – 235.

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