NORA Award for Innovative Research Honors Collaboration on Supervisors' Key Role in Reducing Musculoskeletal Risks


NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 245-0645
July 29, 2008

The NORA Innovative Research Award for 2008 was presented on July 29 for a collaboration that developed and tested a successful strategy for strengthening the key role of supervisors in reducing workers’ risk for painful and costly work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

The award was presented at NORA Symposium 2008, held in Denver by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center. The symposium convened researchers and practitioners from government, industry, labor, and universities. The researchers and practitioners partner to design, support, conduct, and use the products of occupational safety and health research under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

The NORA Innovative Research Award was presented to William S. Shaw, PhD, Michelle M. Robertson, PhD, Santosh K. Verma, MD, MPH, Glenn Pransky, MD, MOccH, and Mary Jane Woiszwillo, BA, all with the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety; Robert K. McLellan, MD, MPH, FACOEM, FAAFP, with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; and Ronald Woo, with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

In the project, the researchers developed and tested a training program for supervisors in helping workers to recover from job-related musculoskeletal injuries, in helping to avert or reverse potential incipient injuries, and to prevent risks of new injuries. The training focuses on the significant roles that supervisors can play by suggesting modifications in work demands, facilitating employees’ access to health care, applying medical restrictions, addressing employee concerns and questions, and communicating concern and support for the employee’s well-being.

The researchers evaluated the success of the training program by scientifically reviewing and comparing workers’ compensation data from different parts of a food processing company. In the seven months after the training program was introduced, the operating units in which supervisors had participated in the training program showed a 47 percent decline in the number of new workers’ compensation claims for musculoskeletal injuries, compared with a 19 percent decline in other departments. In a subsequent evaluation after supervisors in the other department also participated in the training program, the two groups each showed an additional 19 percent decline in new claims.

“NIOSH is pleased to join in presenting this award, which recognizes creativity, ingenuity, and scientific know-how by the research team led by Dr. Shaw and his associates,” said NIOSH Acting Director Christine Branche, Ph.D. “We applaud their leadership in developing this fresh approach to preventing painful, disabling, and costly occupational injuries, and in rigorously demonstrating its utility and value.”

Honorable Mention in the NORA Innovative Research Award was presented to a NIOSH collaboration that resulted in development of a practical, effective protective guardrail system for preventing workers from falling from elevations. From 1998 to 2005, 153 workers died on average each year and 3,374 suffered severe injuries in falling from roofs and other elevations. The NIOSH team included Thomas G. Bobick, Douglas M. Cantis, E.A. McKenzie Jr., and H. David Edgell.

More information on the award can be found at

Page last reviewed: August 6, 2012