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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZJNE - NIOSH Engineering Control Database

Start Date: 4/1/2010
End Date: 9/30/2013

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Dawn Farwick
Phone: 513-841-4118
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DART
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed

Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

This project will create a database to capture, organize and preserve engineering controls developed in laboratories across the Institute in a publically accessible database useful for the occupational safety and health community. Through creation of a database, engineering controls that have been researched and developed across the Institute can be preserved, organized and made accessible

This project is contributing to the Engineering Control Cross Sector.

The major output of this project is a searchable, accessible database of engineering controls developed or tested by NIOSH researchers.


A few years ago, the Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch (EPHB) within the Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART), recognized that a wealth of information on engineering control technology was stored in their branch files with access limited to the entities involved in the research and the distribution list mandated by 42 CFR 85(a). EPHB had decades of valuable information on engineering control technology that nearly no one, other than the researcher and participating industry, even knew existed. Contained in EPHB files were novel, effective, and proven controls for a variety of occupational hazards.

Engineering control solutions were successfully researched and reported on and then promptly filed away. The contents of some of these reports have made it onto the NIOSH website, but most have not, due to 508 compliance rules. EPHB has identified more than 280 research reports that are currently not electronically available. The task of putting these reports into a form that would be acceptable for Web posting is herculean, at best, and impossible at worst. And even if these reports were more readily available, the design and operating specifications of the engineering controls are buried within these lengthy reports, requiring much effort to extract specific information on the control. These reports are not simply descriptions of the engineering controls, but study reports describing all methods used and detailing all data produced in the various studies. Recognizing the need to get these engineering controls into a more usable format and a more useful location, EPHB submitted a proposal for a Public Health Practice project to create a database of engineering control technology from branch reports. This project was awarded funding, and a database was created. The EPHB Engineering Control Database is comprised of a simple, one page summary of each engineering control. The database currently contains 51 entries. The organization of the database and its overall look was modeled after the Center for Construction Research and Training�s (CPWR) Construction Solutions database, which can be seen here: Each engineering control summary contains descriptions of the hazard; the risk; the control specifications, including photos and images; and an evaluation of the control, if available. The database entries are searchable by: title; keywords including industry, hazard, and job; and EPHB file number. This file number allows the user to view the specific survey reports used to create the summary on the Workplace Survey Reports Topic Page, if the files are available electronically. Each summary was created by parsing information from research study reports, presentations, and other NIOSH publications (most notably Workplace Solutions).

Having the engineering controls in a functional database benefits a diverse audience. First, it benefits NIOSH researchers. EPHB is not unique in losing its older researchers to retirement. Therefore, when new research projects are discussed, there is no longer any one around who remembers that research was done back in the �80s on a similar hazard, but in a different industry; or that a project completed years ago examined a different hazard in the same industry. A database containing summaries of past products would be extremely helpful in informing and guiding our future research efforts. Second, this database would benefit the working public � from health and safety professionals to the workers themselves.

Because this project is an expansion of an existing database, the foundational work has already been done. The database, as an electronic structure, exists. A template for data summary and the design of the data output report has been created. The methodology for extracting the control technologies into the summaries has been defined and tested. This methodology is not complex; rather it involves a lot of basic labor, including identifying research files containing viable engineering controls, scanning or downloading the files into a usable electronic format, summarizing the information into the database template, and loading the individual summaries into the database.

Specific activities include:

1) Soliciting NIOSH researchers to identify, find and share their research FY 10-11
2) Traveling to various NIOSH locations to pour through files, reports, presentations and publications to identify engineering controls suitable for the database and to format identified material into electronic files FY 10-12
3) Writing and editing the engineering control summaries FY 11-13
4) Building database FY 10-13
5) Acquiring approval for posting of database on web FY 12-13

Mission Relevance

NIOSH, like many other institutions, is quickly losing its institutional memory. Our workforce is aging and beginning to retire at an alarming rate. Much of our oldest research is at risk of being completely lost. As researchers leave, so too, does the memory of their research projects and accomplishments. Compounding the problem is the fact that much of this research was conducted well before the emergence of the r2p paradigm � before a strong emphasis on disseminating our research to the public. If the research cannot be accessed, the ability to utilize the products of the research will be lost, and any impact from the research will be forfeited. There is too much valuable information contained within our agency�s files to allow this to happen. Much research has been completed on engineering control technology around NIOSH. Unfortunately, some of this work is hidden � hidden in files, in offices � from public view. This project seeks to correct this problem by capturing, organizing and preserving these engineering control technology solutions into a publically accessible database.

No surveillance system or information was used to define the need or design of this project, other than common sense, and the wisdom to know that there is much good work and information not easily accessible by the general public.

This project will utilize and expand upon an existing database to capture, organize and preserve engineering controls developed in laboratories across the Institute in a publically accessible database useful for the occupational safety and health community.

By gathering information into a public format, research products and outcomes will not be lost, but will rather be available for study and use.