The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the
Occupational Safety an Health Administration (OSHA) were established by the
Occupational Safety and Health Act passed by congress in 1970. NIOSH is a part
of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and is the only federally funded and
controlled division responsible for conducting research and making
recommendations for the prevention of work related illnesses and injuries. It is
important to understand the OSHA and NIOSH are two separate agencies. OSHA is
housed under the Department of Labor and is responsible for the development and
enforcement of workplace health and safety regulations. NIOSH on the other hand
is 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 congress
through section 2B (5,6) of the OSH Act to “provide for research in the field
of occupational safety and health, including the psychological involved, and by
developing innovative methods, techniques, and approaches for dealing with
occupational safety and health problems: by exploring ways to discover latent
diseases, establishing causal connections between diseases and work and
environmental conditions, and conducting other research relating to health
problems, in recognition of the fact that occupational health standards present
problems often different from those involved in occupational safety”. During
its 25 year history NIOSH has had its function revised two times, once in 1977
by amendment to the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act and in 1995 when the U.S.

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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 that
they played in all others. The duties and responsibilities of NIOSH are numerous
but include: ? Investigating potentially hazardous working conditions as
reported by employees or employers. ? Evaluate the hazards of new technologies
and work practices. ? Researching, Creating and Evaluating methods for
preventing disease, illness or injury in the workplace. ? Providing education
and training to individuals preparing for or actively involved in the field of
occupational safety and health. ? Recommend occupational safety and health
standards to OSHA. Many of the efforts of NIOSH are targeted at anticipating
workplace crisis and making sure that they do not come to pass. An example of
one of these efforts is the many mine disaster that have been prevented as a
result of the pillar system developed by NIOSH for longwall mining. Another
example is the many health emergencies that have been avoided as a result of the
NIOSH information hotline. As a federal agency NIOSH has given itself both a
vision and a mission statement. It’s vision is “Delivering on the Nations
promise: safety and health at work for all people through research and
prevention”. The mission of NIOSH is to “provide national and world
leadership to prevent work-related illness, injury and death by gathering
information, conducting scientific studies and translating the knowledge gained
into products and services”. NIOSH has given itself four strategic goals for
the next decade. The first goal is to “conduct a targeted program of research
to reduce morbidity, injuries and mortality among workers in high priority areas
and high-risk sectors”. In order to accomplish goal number one NIOSH will
follow NORA or the National Occupational Research Agenda. NORA breaks NIOSH
research down into 3 distinct areas, disease and injury, work
environment/workforce and research tools and approaches. Each of the three areas
has specific areas of research that will be targeted. The following is a brief
list of the targeted research areas: Disease and Injury Allergic and Irritant
Dermatitis Hearing Loss Low Back Disorders Cumulative Trauma Disorders Work
Environment Emerging Technologies And Workforce Indoor Environment Special
Populations at Risk Research Tools and Cancer Research Methods Approaches
Control Technology and PPE Exposure Assessment Methods Risk Assessment Methods
It is understood that while there are many other area’s of research that may
still have importance, under NORA these will be some of the areas receiving the
majority of research attention at this time. The second goal is to “develop a
system of surveillance of major occupational illnesses, injuries, exposures and
health hazards”. Congress decided in 1986 that the ability to identify,
quantify and report work-related injury and disease is vital to prevention. To
make optimal use of public resources to conduct this surveillance NIOSH has
created partnerships at Federal, State and Local levels throughout the country.

An example of this type of surveillance is the FACE program or Fatality
Assessment and Control Evaluation. In this program partnerships formed with
state Health Departments allow NIOSH to investigate worksites where fatalities
have occurred. NIOSH conducted 139 such investigations in 1998. Following the
investigations NIOSH gives prevention recommendations to the employers and
workers. Other partnerships have been formed with the Consumer Product Safety
Commission to study non-fatal occupational injuries and with the EPA to study
pesticide related poisonings. The third goal is to “increase occupational
disease and injury prevention activities through workplace evaluations,
interventions and recommendations”. NIOSH has 5 separate programs aimed at
achieving goal number three. The first being Health Hazard Evaluations. These
are conducted at the worksite, based on the request of workers, employers or
government agencies. Specific recommendations will be made following an HHE to
prevent hazards at the worksite evaluated. The second program is Intervention
Effectiveness Research. These are conducted to evaluate how effective current
prevention methods are at reducing injuries, when there are known hazards. The
third is Control Technology Assistance. In this program NIOSH work with industry
to create practical solutions to hazards that will have a broad impact on
worksites. The fourth is Recommendations. NIOSH disseminates its research
information to the public to have a greater impact on hazards that may affect
people at home as well as work. The fifth and final is Respirator Certification.

This program conducts site audits, investigates respirator problems in the
field, studies proposed modifications, and conducts research to improve
respirator use and performance. The fourth and final goal is to provide workers,
employers, the public and the occupational safety and health community with
information, training and capacity to prevent occupational diseases and
injuries. 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 and
Informal Circulars. Criteria Documents provide the basis for occupational safety
and health standards. Each document generally contains a review of scientific
and technical information on a particular hazard, existence of safety and health
risks regarding the hazard and a review of the control methods. These documents
will make recommendations for minimizing safety and health risks. These
recommendations may include medical monitoring, exposure assessment, worker
training, control technology, personal protective equipment and record keeping.

An example is a 1998 document relating to the criteria for occupational noise
exposure. In the document NIOSH reaffirms the recommended exposure level for
occupational noise. The level has been at 85 Db since 1972. For occupations that
exceed the REL the document recommends a hearing loss prevention program that
includes all of the following, exposure assessment, engineering and
administrative controls, proper use of hearing protection, audiometric
evaluation and education. Current Intelligence Bulletins review, evaluate and
disseminate new information about occupational hazards . An example of such a
document is a 1997 bulletin on the commercial fishing industry fatalities in
Alaska. The document uses great detail to describe the difference between
commercial fishing in Alaska and other areas. Much of the harvesting is done
using different machinery and weather conditions than the rest of the industry.

NIOSH recommends that there be continued training with regards to the Commercial
Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act, aimed at reducting injuries and fatalities
even further. NIOSH Alerts briefly present new information about occupational
illnesses, injuries and deaths. They generally ask for immediate action on the
part of the employer, employee and safety and health professionals to reduce the
risks and implement controls with regards to the hazard addressed by the alert.

An example is an Alert from December of 1999 entitled “Preventing Injuries and
Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts”. In the report, NIOSH
states that over 1021 deaths have occurred as a result of forklifts in the past
10 years. Of that, 22% occurred as a result of a forklift overturning. NIOSH
give the current OSHA regulations, and manufacturer recommendations for safe
operation. It then give specific case data to drvie the point home to the
reader. After they have the readers attention NIOSH give its recommendations to
increase safety, which include ? Use seat belts if they are available ? Report
any damage problems noticed or occurring during your shift. ? Do not jump from
an overturning forklift. ? Use extreme caution on grades and ramps. Additional
recommendations are available but are too numerous to mention for the purpose of
this example. Updates are brief publications that provide information on NIOSH
findings and recommend preventative.


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