NIOSH Research Programs

Small Business Assistance Program

Key points

  • The Small Business Assistance Program seeks to reduce occupational illnesses, injuries, and deaths in smaller businesses.
  • For NIOSH's occupational safety and health research purposes, small businesses are typically defined as those with fewer than 50 employees.


Happy African-American woman and her employee talking and laughing while standing at door of the store.
Preventing illness and injury among small businesses.

To Learn More‎

This page provides information about the goals and activities of this NIOSH Research Program. For related prevention and safety information please visit Small Business Resources

The Small Business Assistance (SBA) program focuses on conducting research to better prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths in small businesses and increasing awareness and use of effective interventions among small businesses. There are approximately six million workplaces in the U.S. that have employees. Eighty-nine percent of them have fewer than 20 employees, and 79% have fewer than 10 employees. Smaller businesses tend to have higher rates of injuries and illness than their larger counterparts. The SBA program researches the role of intermediaries (such as insurance companies, trade associations, and chambers of commerce) and the best way to partner with them to connect with small businesses. The program also collaborates and provides support (such as translation or outreach) to other NIOSH programs and outside partners that do research that may be helpful to small businesses.

Program priorities

The SBA program focuses on the industry sectors that have a high proportion of small businesses, and collaborated with other NIOSH research programs to write the research goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2026. Priority areas include (but are not limited to):"

  • Construction - Reducing harmful noise exposure, musculoskeletal disorders, fall related injuries, and injuries caused by non-standard work arrangements.
  • Manufacturing - Reducing harmful noise and ototoxic chemical exposures, and respiratory diseases.
  • Oil and Gas Extraction - Reducing hazardous dermal and noise exposures, preventing motor vehicle crashes, and silica-induced respiratory diseases.
  • Services - Preventing cardiovascular diseases, adverse reproductive outcomes, hearing loss, musculoskeletal disorders and falls related injuries.
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade - Preventing musculoskeletal disorders, falls related injuries, and motor vehicle crashes.

What we've accomplished

In 2022-2023, the Program:

  • Collaborated with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update the OSHA-NIOSH Small Business Safety and Health Handbook with new checklist topics including heat-related illness prevention, ergonomics, workplace violence, infection control, and young workers.
  • Presented a webinar to small business owners on the OSHA-NIOSH Small Business Safety and Health Handbook and how it can be used to make workplaces safer.
  • Provided the CDC Center for Preparedness and Response with subject matter technical advice on literature review approaches to emergency preparedness for small businesses.
  • Completed customer discovery interviews with small business owners and employees in outdoor service businesses to determine their occupational safety and health needs and resource preferences.
  • Highlighted small businesses and related-NIOSH activities to 50,000 subscribers in the June NIOSH eNews Director's Desk.

What's ahead

In the future, the Program aims to:

  • Collaborate with OSHA to update the OSHA-NIOSH Small Business Handbook with new checklist topics including aging workers, fatigue, stress, and temporary workers.
  • Develop an OSHA-NIOSH Small Business Checklist app that presents handbook checklists in an easy-to-use and interactive format for mobile devices.
  • Analyze customer discovery interview data and share findings with those at NIOSH studying or developing products for small businesses.


Contact the Small Business Assistance Program with any questions.

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More information and useful resources can be found on the following page