Special Topics in Safety Management

NIOSH Releases Updates on Several of Its Programs

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has been exploring the potential to use the data that workers’ compensation insurers collect from their policyholders to better understand workplace exposures, the Institute noted in an update on its Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies program.

Safety documents

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NIOSH also released updates on five other programs: the Center for Occupational Robotics Research, Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, Health Hazard Evaluation Program, Nanotechnology Research Center, and National Center for Productive Aging and Work.

Workers’ Compensation

NIOSH’s recent accomplishments in workers’ compensation research include:

  • Completing analyses of workers’ compensation claims data in Alaska and Ohio for severe outcomes—like traumatic brain injury—in high-risk industries, such as private ambulance services, seafood processing, and temporary services, to focus injury prevention efforts;
  • Hosting a July 2019 meeting to discuss ways to use workers’ compensation and prescription drug monitoring data to better understand opioid use or misuse and workplace risks; and
  • Sponsoring a Workers Compensation Research Institute study that identified factors leading to higher opioid dispensing rates in 27 states.

The center plans next to share best practices in data coding, dashboards, and linkage with state departments of health and workers’ compensation bureaus, as well as research alternatives to opioid use to treat workplace injuries.

Occupational Robotics Research

NIOSH’s Center for Occupational Robotics Research (CORR) tracks trends in robotics technology and evaluates its potential for causing or preventing worker injuries and illnesses. CORR recently has:

  • Funded a Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) analysis of a worker’s death involving a driverless forklift;
  • Participated on consensus standards committees revising traditional robot safety standards and developing a new standard for mobile robot safety; and
  • Presented a webinar on emerging robotics technologies and implications for worker safety and health.

CORR plans to copublish the proceedings from a symposium on the safety and use of exoskeletons in the workplace and publish a summary of robot-related injuries. The center also will contribute to a guidance document on working safely with robots as part of an alliance with OSHA and the Robotic Industries Association.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

The institute’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Program prepares for and responds to man-made and natural disasters. The program recently has provided technical assistance for law enforcement officers and emergency responders exposed to opioids—releasing a training video earlier this year, along with guidance for first responders, as well as conducting health hazard evaluations and training for over 400 first responders.

The program plans to produce more videos and infographics alerting first responders to the hazards of on-the-job exposure to fentanyl.

The Emergency Preparedness and Response Program also recently published guidance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for protecting workers from livestock and poultry wastewater and sludge during and after floods.

Health Hazard Evaluations

NIOSH has responded to 13 requests for opioid-related investigations, including potential exposure related to building ventilation of a jail. The Institute performs health hazard evaluations (HHEs) requested by employers, unions, and workers by conducting field visits and phone consultations.

Besides producing HHE reports, NIOSH investigations have led to assessment tools and specialty publications, including:

  • A Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for General Buildings and a Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for School Buildings; and
  • Six specialty publications focused on firefighters’ risk for rhabdomyolysis and controlling hazards for employees working with nanotechnology.

NIOSH plans to conduct at least 30 more field visits this year in response to at least 200 HHE requests.

Emerging Safety and Health Issues

NIOSH’s National Center for Productive Aging and Work (NCPAW) conducts research into emerging safety, health, and well-being issues related to an aging workforce. The NCPAW conducted its third annual Productive Aging and Work Webinar and contributed chapters on age-friendly workplaces to the Handbook of Rehabilitation in Older Adults and Current and Emerging Trends in Aging and Work.

The Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) published 93 journal articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature during 2018 and completed peer and stakeholder review of a draft Current Intelligence Bulletin: Health Effects from Occupational Exposure to Silver Nanomaterials.

The NTRC plans to work with industry to evaluate the hazards represented by nanomaterials throughout their life cycles and participate on committees developing international safety standards.