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	worker at table saw with hood and guard

Input: Emerging Issues

Engineering control of occupational hazards is a continually developing field due to both changes in the work place as well as evolution of the field itself. In recent years the emerging threat of terrorism has blurred the line between engineering control to protect workers (occupational safety and health) and engineering controls to protect the general population (public health). An example of this is the work that has been completed by the NIOSH Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch, in partnership with several other Federal agencies, to develop a document that provides building owners, managers, and maintenance personnel with recommendations to protect public, private, and government buildings from chemical, biological, or radiological attacks. This document provides recommendations to protect both employees and visitors in those buildings.

Engineering controls designed to protect health care workers from contracting nosicomial infections will similarly result in protection of the general population from natural (e.g., avian flu) and man-made (e.g., bio-terror) threats.

Developments in science, engineering, and computer technology such as computational fluid dynamics and laser technology enable research in engineering control to propose more sophisticated controls for environmental hazards and to evaluate the effectiveness of those controls in much greater detail and more quickly than ever before possible. Developments in the field of engineering control, such as control banding, are enabling the application of appropriate control measures to previously unaddressed issues in a simpler and more expedient manner than ever before.

As the third of the triumvirate of principles underlying occupational safety and health—recognition, evaluation, and control—the field of environmental control in general and the NIOSH Cross-sector area of engineering control specifically will emerge as an essential component within all of the NORA Sector and Cross-Sector programs. Additionally, NIOSH funding of extramural research in control of occupational hazards will further lead to reduced workplace injury and illness.