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Inputs: Emerging Issues

The demand and supply of products and services is affected by emerging issues such as changes in technological, demographic, and institutional factors (e.g., regulations, standards, and recommendations) and management strategies. These factors and strategies affect work and the work environment and, as a consequence, worker safety and health. The relationship between the demand and supply of products and services and worker safety and health is poorly understood and rarely explicitly modeled and quantitatively studied. Economic research and modeling can inform the specific ways worker safety and health is affected by changes in the demand and supply of products and services, thereby identifying opportunities for prevention.

Economics can also address how emerging issues affect the value of preventing worker injury and illness, including estimates of the economic burden of worker injury and illness and cost-effectiveness/cost-benefit type studies that examine the societal, employer, and other perspectives. This information can point to policy gaps and thus be used to address market failures and barriers to the adoption of effective interventions.

Some of the factors that are expected to start or continue affecting the demand and supply of products and services and the value of preventing worker injury and illness in the next 5 to 10 years, virtually affecting all NIOSH Programs, include:

  • The growing aging workforce
  • The increasing number of contract workers who cannot rely on employer-based insurance for either occupational or non-occupational disease and injury
  • Increasing co-morbidities among occupational and non-occupational conditions or exposures
  • The latency of developing certain illnesses or conditions that affect a growing number of currently and previously employed individuals, and for which it is perceived to be difficult to make “the business case” for worker safety and health
  • Increasingly complex work environments
  • Changes in the factors that affect work-related stress
  • Continuing changes in work schedules
  • Continuing changes in management systems, including work organization
  • Increasing economic pressures for small and medium sized enterprises that are particularly vulnerable to the perceived trade-off between safety and productivity; a better understanding of particular issues is needed, including the identification of relevant costs, best practices, barriers to adoption, incentives, and resources to overcome barriers
  • The increasing number of new technologies with unknown effects on worker safety and health
  • The impact of changes in government regulation, including international regulations such as the European Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical (REACH) substances
  • International market forces and consensus standards, practices, or methodologies such as control banding that helps assess the incremental effectiveness of specific controls and the overall effectiveness of programs

More information on some of these emerging issues can be found in the Economic Factors section of this website.