The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and theOccupational Safety an Health Administration (OSHA) were established by theOccupational Safety and Health Act passed by congress in 1970. NIOSH is a partof the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and is the only federally funded andcontrolled division responsible for conducting research and makingrecommendations for the prevention of work related illnesses and injuries. It isimportant to understand the OSHA and NIOSH are two separate agencies. OSHA ishoused under the Department of Labor and is responsible for the development andenforcement of workplace health and safety regulations. NIOSH on the other handis in the Department of Health and Human Services and is a research agency. NIOSH was created when the US Secretary of Labor was directed by congressthrough section 2B (5,6) of the OSH Act to “provide for research in the fieldof occupational safety and health, including the psychological involved, and bydeveloping innovative methods, techniques, and approaches for dealing withoccupational safety and health problems: by exploring ways to discover latentdiseases, establishing causal connections between diseases and work andenvironmental conditions, and conducting other research relating to healthproblems, in recognition of the fact that occupational health standards presentproblems often different from those involved in occupational safety”.
Duringits 25 year history NIOSH has had its function revised two times, once in 1977by amendment to the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act and in 1995 when the U. S. Bureau of Mine Health and Safety Research was consolidated and placed in NIOSH. These changes allowed NIOSH to play the same role in the mining industry thatthey played in all others. The duties and responsibilities of NIOSH are numerousbut include: ? Investigating potentially hazardous working conditions asreported by employees or employers. ? Evaluate the hazards of new technologiesand work practices.
? Researching, Creating and Evaluating methods forpreventing disease, illness or injury in the workplace. ? Providing educationand training to individuals preparing for or actively involved in the field ofoccupational safety and health. ? Recommend occupational safety and healthstandards to OSHA. Many of the efforts of NIOSH are targeted at anticipatingworkplace crisis and making sure that they do not come to pass.
An example ofone of these efforts is the many mine disaster that have been prevented as aresult of the pillar system developed by NIOSH for longwall mining. Anotherexample is the many health emergencies that have been avoided as a result of theNIOSH information hotline. As a federal agency NIOSH has given itself both avision and a mission statement. It’s vision is “Delivering on the Nationspromise: safety and health at work for all people through research andprevention”. The mission of NIOSH is to “provide national and worldleadership to prevent work-related illness, injury and death by gatheringinformation, conducting scientific studies and translating the knowledge gainedinto products and services”.
NIOSH has given itself four strategic goals forthe next decade. The first goal is to “conduct a targeted program of researchto reduce morbidity, injuries and mortality among workers in high priority areasand high-risk sectors”. In order to accomplish goal number one NIOSH willfollow NORA or the National Occupational Research Agenda. NORA breaks NIOSHresearch down into 3 distinct areas, disease and injury, workenvironment/workforce and research tools and approaches. Each of the three areashas specific areas of research that will be targeted.
The following is a brieflist of the targeted research areas: Disease and Injury Allergic and IrritantDermatitis Hearing Loss Low Back Disorders Cumulative Trauma Disorders WorkEnvironment Emerging Technologies And Workforce Indoor Environment SpecialPopulations at Risk Research Tools and Cancer Research Methods ApproachesControl Technology and PPE Exposure Assessment Methods Risk Assessment MethodsIt is understood that while there are many other area’s of research that maystill have importance, under NORA these will be some of the areas receiving themajority of research attention at this time. The second goal is to “develop asystem of surveillance of major occupational illnesses, injuries, exposures andhealth hazards”. Congress decided in 1986 that the ability to identify,quantify and report work-related injury and disease is vital to prevention. Tomake optimal use of public resources to conduct this surveillance NIOSH hascreated partnerships at Federal, State and Local levels throughout the country.
An example of this type of surveillance is the FACE program or FatalityAssessment and Control Evaluation. In this program partnerships formed withstate Health Departments allow NIOSH to investigate worksites where fatalitieshave occurred. NIOSH conducted 139 such investigations in 1998. Following theinvestigations NIOSH gives prevention recommendations to the employers andworkers.
Other partnerships have been formed with the Consumer Product SafetyCommission to study non-fatal occupational injuries and with the EPA to studypesticide related poisonings. The third goal is to “increase occupationaldisease and injury prevention activities through workplace evaluations,interventions and recommendations”. NIOSH has 5 separate programs aimed atachieving goal number three. The first being Health Hazard Evaluations.
Theseare conducted at the worksite, based on the request of workers, employers orgovernment agencies. Specific recommendations will be made following an HHE toprevent hazards at the worksite evaluated. The second program is InterventionEffectiveness Research. These are conducted to evaluate how effective currentprevention methods are at reducing injuries, when there are known hazards. Thethird is Control Technology Assistance. In this program NIOSH work with industryto create practical solutions to hazards that will have a broad impact onworksites.
The fourth is Recommendations. NIOSH disseminates its researchinformation to the public to have a greater impact on hazards that may affectpeople at home as well as work. The fifth and final is Respirator Certification. This program conducts site audits, investigates respirator problems in thefield, studies proposed modifications, and conducts research to improverespirator use and performance.
The fourth and final goal is to provide workers,employers, the public and the occupational safety and health community withinformation, training and capacity to prevent occupational diseases andinjuries. NIOSH is also responsible for many different types of publications,such as Criteria Documents, Current Intelligence , Bulletins, NIOSH Alerts,Updates, Hazard Controls, Hazard Identifications, Reports of Investigations andInformal Circulars. Criteria Documents provide the basis for occupational safetyand health standards. Each document generally contains a review of scientificand technical information on a particular hazard, existence of safety and healthrisks regarding the hazard and a review of the control methods.
These documentswill make recommendations for minimizing safety and health risks. Theserecommendations may include medical monitoring, exposure assessment, workertraining, control technology, personal protective equipment and record keeping. An example is a 1998 document relating to the criteria for occupational noiseexposure. In the document NIOSH reaffirms the recommended exposure level foroccupational noise. The level has been at 85 Db since 1972.
For occupations thatexceed the REL the document recommends a hearing loss prevention program thatincludes all of the following, exposure assessment, engineering andadministrative controls, proper use of hearing protection, audiometricevaluation and education. Current Intelligence Bulletins review, evaluate anddisseminate new information about occupational hazards . An example of such adocument is a 1997 bulletin on the commercial fishing industry fatalities inAlaska. The document uses great detail to describe the difference betweencommercial fishing in Alaska and other areas.
Much of the harvesting is doneusing different machinery and weather conditions than the rest of the industry. NIOSH recommends that there be continued training with regards to the CommercialFishing Industry Vessel Safety Act, aimed at reducting injuries and fatalitieseven further. NIOSH Alerts briefly present new information about occupationalillnesses, injuries and deaths. They generally ask for immediate action on thepart of the employer, employee and safety and health professionals to reduce therisks and implement controls with regards to the hazard addressed by the alert. An example is an Alert from December of 1999 entitled “Preventing Injuries andDeaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts”. In the report, NIOSHstates that over 1021 deaths have occurred as a result of forklifts in the past10 years.
Of that, 22% occurred as a result of a forklift overturning. NIOSHgive the current OSHA regulations, and manufacturer recommendations for safeoperation. It then give specific case data to drvie the point home to thereader. After they have the readers attention NIOSH give its recommendations toincrease safety, which include ? Use seat belts if they are available ? Reportany damage problems noticed or occurring during your shift. ? Do not jump froman overturning forklift.
? Use extreme caution on grades and ramps. Additionalrecommendations are available but are too numerous to mention for the purpose ofthis example. Updates are brief publications that provide information on NIOSHfindings and recommend preventative.