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NIOSH eNews – July 2016

Volume 14 Number 3 (July 2016)

From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH
NIOSH Alaska Field Station collage of images from 1991

(Left) Dr. Donald Millar, then director of NIOSH, christens the Alaska Field Station (AFS) in August 1991. (Right) NIOSH staff commemorating the opening of the AFS in 1991: (L to R) Mel Myers, Al Amendola, Jan Manwaring, Don Millar, Jim Helmkamp, Richard Kennedy. Jan and Richard were two of the original AFS staff.


NIOSH Alaska Field Station Celebrates 25 Years!
This year NIOSH celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the NIOSH Alaska Field Station (AFS). From its inception, the mission of AFS was to combat the urgent problem of work-related fatalities in Alaska. AFS served as a “catalyst for change” by providing a scientific assessment of occupational safety hazards, such as identifying the state’s highest risk industries, the workers most at risk of fatality, and the highest priority problems.

NIOSH established the AFS August 15, 1991, at the invitation of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Area Native Health Service of the Indian Health Service. During 1980–1989, Alaska had the highest work-related fatality rate of any state in the nation, with a rate of 34.8 deaths per 100,000 workers per year compared to the average U.S. rate of 7 deaths per 100,000 workers per year.

Achievements over the past 25 Years
Smart surveillance to identify hazards and tailored prevention efforts for the industries and occupations at highest risk have resulted in a 77% decline in the rate of fatalities among Alaska’s workers since 1990. This was driven by the 75% decrease in the number of commercial fishing fatalities and 88% decrease in the number of pilot fatalities. AFS scientists developed the Alaska Occupational Injury Surveillance System to collect detailed information on all work-related traumatic fatalities in the state. Furthermore, AFS and its Alaskan partners created the Interagency Working Group for the Prevention of Work-related Fatalities as a nonregulatory initiative for developing occupational safety interventions in several industries.

AFS and aviation safety partners began a multifaceted public health approach to aviation safety during the late 1990s. Much of this work was encompassed in the Alaska Interagency Aviation Safety Initiative, which focused on improving safety for air taxi and commuter airlines operations in Alaska. These partners included the National Transportation Safety Board Alaska Regional Office, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, and the Alaska Air Carriers Association. The interventions that were developed included improved technology, education, and voluntary changes in aviation safety culture. Marked improvements to aviation safety were observed after implementation of the interventions.

More recent activities related to aviation safety include the development of a fatigue training tool for pilots of air taxi operations, which are common in Alaska. The training product is to improve fatigue awareness, assessment, management, prevention, and training and will be made available to all pilots and aviation companies in Alaska. More recently, NIOSH has worked on preventing runway excursions and mid-air collisions in Alaska.

Commercial fishing
For the first 15 years, AFS focused its prevention efforts on improving safety among fishermen in Alaska by focusing on decreasing hazards in specific Alaskan commercial fishing fleets through evaluating marine safety training, accessing the impact of recent Coast Guard regulations, developing engineering solutions to deck hazards, and supporting the implementation of safety programs the U.S. Coast Guard created for the Bering Sea crab fleet and the Head and Gut fleet. In 2007, NIOSH expanded its commercial fishing safety research program from a regional program that focused on hazards in Alaska, to a National Program. Since 2007, this program has established national surveillance for all commercial fishing fatalities in the United States to identify high-risk fisheries and regional hazards. The program has also focused research activities to prevent vessel losses and falls overboard, which are the leading causes of fatality in the industry.

AFS will continue to provide technical assistance to partners including the U.S. Coast Guard, in accordance with the newly authorized U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. These activities will result in further declines in the fishing fatality rates in the United States. NIOSH research has influenced regional, national, and international fishing safety polices, and NIOSH scientists are frequently approached by external partners for technical assistance.

The foremost issue in commercial fishing safety is the current development of Alternate Safety Compliance Programs (ASCP) for fishing vessels at least 50 feet long, mandated by Congress in the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010. NIOSH has received numerous requests for studies of fishing industry fatalities and vessel disasters in specific fleets, districts, areas, as well as nationwide. NIOSH has made these studies a top priority for the Commercial Fishing Safety Research and Design Program and will continue to strive for excellence in collecting and analyzing data, publishing and presenting results, and issuing sensible recommendations for solutions.

Future Work
In 2015, AFS joined NIOSH’s Denver and Spokane sites to form the Western States Division (WSD). The WSD will continue to work to improve workplace safety in high-risk industries in the West. Current projects not only look at reducing hazards in aviation and commercial fishing, but also oil and gas and wildland firefighting. NIOSH also just established the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS), headed by CAPT Jennifer Lincoln of Alaska. CMSHS will conduct research to enhance occupational safety and health for the high-risk maritime worker population.

The ocean environment presents many challenges to those who must protect seafaring workers’ safety and health. Some of these challenges are seen dockside at shipyards and marine terminals, while other hazards are unique to vessels operating in commercial fishing, freight transportation, and passenger service. Workers in marine industries are at higher risk for work-related fatalities. A focused, epidemiological approach to reducing fatalities in high-risk occupations is effective. Ongoing commitment to this type of approach will assist in continued success in Alaska and elsewhere.

The impact over the last two and a half decades of NIOSH work in Alaska shows how a commitment to collaborative efforts by governmental agencies, industry, and nongovernmental organizations will assist in reducing risks of work-related fatalities in Alaska and in the high-risk industries found in Alaska and elsewhere. The overall decline in work-related fatalities in Alaska demonstrates the success of a focused, epidemiological approach to reducing fatalities in high-risk occupations. In addition, the programs that work in Alaska to reduce fatalities in these high-risk industries have expanded geographically. The “Alaska Field Station Approach” to reducing workplace fatalities has expanded to address similar high-risk industries in other states, including those with commercial fishing vessels as well as the oil and gas and wildland firefighting industries that have aviation transportation as a hazard.

Please join me in congratulating NIOSH Alaska staff, both those who work there now and those who have worked there in the past, on their 25 years of outstanding achievements. We all look forward to Alaska’s next 25 years!

The 2016 Sammies People’s Choice Award Polls are Open!

Dr. Hongwei Hsiao, NIOSH Division of Safety Research Branch Chief, is a finalist for the Samael J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) for his research and design of a new generation of personal protective equipment and industrial apparatus that improves worker safety. While the category winners are chosen by an official selection committee, everyone can vote for their top picks. People’s Choice voting is open now and will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on September 9, 2016. Cast your vote for Dr. Hsiao now!

NIOSH Research on Pro Football and Suicide Risk

A recent NIOSH study, Suicide Mortality Among Retired National Football League Players, looks at the impact of professional contact football on former National Football League players and their risk of suicide. Though much research exists connecting head injuries incurred from football to greater risk for brain-related injuries, this new research is one of the most extensive studies to date on the relationship of player position and suicide rates. More information on the study is available on the NIOSH Science Blog.

National Occupational Mortality Surveillance System Updates

The NIOSH National Occupational Mortality Surveillance (NOMS) System recently updated its Proportionate Mortality Ratio (PMR) Query System and PMR Charts with data from 2008, 2009, and 2010. The recent NOMS dataset (1999, 2003–2004, 2007–2010) includes death certificate data from 25 states and approximately 3.7 million industry- and occupation-coded records. The NOMS System has been a federal-state collaboration for over 30 years.

Get the Third Issue of Behind the Wheel at Work eNewsletter!

The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety recently released the third issue of Behind the Wheel at Work, a quarterly eNewsletter covering work-related motor vehicle safety topics. This issue features information on the Center’s relaunched website, the difference between fatigued and drowsy driving, why using a seat belt is good for business, how truck drivers’ sleep patterns are linked to driving performance, and other road safety topics.

NIOSH Communication Product Spotlight

  • New ePub On Heat Stress Now Available
    NIOSH is pleased to announce the availability of its first ePub. This new format is based on the OSHA/NIOSH Infosheet: Protecting Workers From Heat Illness. The epub allows for the document to be downloaded for use on e-readers and mobile devices.
  • New Factsheet Series Highlights NIOSH Programs
    NIOSH has published a series of factsheets called Program Performance One-Pagers designed to provide a snapshot of each of its programs. The factsheets describe the relevance and impact of NIOSH programs in a short and easy to understand format. Each one includes the program’s priorities, major activities, accomplishments, and future plans.

2017 Work, Stress, and Health Conference: Call for Papers!

NIOSH and partners invite submissions to the Work, Stress, and Health 2017 international conference. The Call for Proposals is now available for the conference, which will take place June 7–10, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Proposal submissions for papers, posters, symposia, and interactive panels are due October 31. For conference updates and upcoming information about registration and hotel accommodations, visit the conference website or the Work, Stress, and Health Conference Facebook page. The conference is co-convened by NIOSH, the American Psychological Association Public Interest Directorate, and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.

NIOSH Participates in ABC News Health’s Weekly Twitter Chats

In June, NIOSH participated in two twitter chats with ABS News Chief Health/Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser. The first chat was on sun safety and the second on opioid epidemic in America. For both, NIOSH shared information about its research and recommendations related to the chat topic. Follow @NIOSH or @abcDrBchat for future twitter chats or search Twitter #abcDrBchat for chat history.

Upcoming Workshop: Integrating Federal Processes for Respiratory Protective Devices Used in Healthcare

The National Academies will host a public workshop August 1, in Washington DC, focusing on current processes and next steps toward the integration of federal processes for respiratory protective devices (RPDs) for use in healthcare settings. NIOSH and the Food and Drug Administration have responsibilities for evaluating and regulating RPDs for healthcare workers. This workshop will explore the strengths and limitations of several current test methods as well as identify ongoing research and research needs. This workshop will also provide the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas between professionals, policy makers, and manufacturers of personal protective equipment with expertise in N95 RPDs intended for use in healthcare settings. You can register online to attend in person or via WebEx.

NIOSH Cincinnati Participates in National Safety Stand Down

In May, NIOSH Cincinnati participated in the National Safety Stand Down (featured in April eNews) with the NIOSH Cincinnati facilities maintenance and operations contractor. The activity focused on preventing falls, with messages tailored to situations that are most likely to occur at the NIOSH Cincinnati campuses. Special attention was given to ladder safety. This included a specialized safety talk/presentation that reinforced the importance of preventing falls. NIOSH’s first mobile application, the Ladder Safety App, was highlighted as part of this discussion.

Monthly Features

NIOSH Congratulates

NIOSH Division Director Greg Lotz Retires
After 40 years of federal service, including active duty and civilian service with the U.S. Navy and the last 24 years at NIOSH, CAPT W. Gregory Lotz, Ph.D., director of the Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART), retired on June 1. CAPT Gayle DeBord, Ph.D. is serving as interim director of the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology.

World Trade Center Health Program Receives Plain Language Award

The NIOSH World Trade Center Health Program was a finalist in the Center For Plain Language’s 2016 ClearMark Awards “Original Documents-Short” for the postcard– “Were you there?.” The ClearMark awards recognize the best plain language communication written for consumers.

NIOSH Wikipedian Named Co-Wikipedian of the Year
Emily Temple-Wood, a NIOSH Wikipedian-in-Residence, was recently named as one of two Wikipedians of the Year for 2016 by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: “Temple-Wood, who edits as Keilana (‘Kay-lah-nah’), has been an editor on the English Wikipedia since 2007. Her work and direct impact on the site is vast: she has created nearly 400 articles and improved hundreds of others.” Emily and co-honoree Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight were recognized for achievements including their collective efforts to expand coverage of notable women on Wikipedia.

ASSE Recognizes NIOSH Safety Researchers
ASSE recognized two researchers from the NIOSH Division of Safety Research at its annual Professional Development Conference in Atlanta in June:

  • Thomas (Tom) Bobick was recognized as the 2016 ASSE Safety Professional of the Year for the Construction Practice Specialty
  • Stephanie Pratt was recognized as the 2016 ASSE Safety Professional of the Year for the Transportation Practice Specialty


Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Dictionary
While preparing the National Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AgFF) Agenda, the NORA AgFF Council realized that safety and health professionals sometimes need help understanding the specialized terminology used in these workplaces. They created a dictionary and included it as an appendix to the Agenda. The dictionary has been adopted by others. The Agriculture Safety and Health Council of America published the dictionary on its website as a reference for its members and others. The North Carolina State University references the Agenda for its definitions of many terms in its online Agromedicine Dictionary. For more information, contact

News from Our Partners

INRS Science Conference March 2017
The French research and safety institute, or INRS, is organizing a conference on March 29–31, 2017, in Nancy, France. It is the fifth in a series of INRS occupational health research conferences launched in 2011. The conference will address technical innovation and organizational changes: the potential impacts on prevention.

Researchers Develop Portable Biosensors to Detect E. Coli
A team of Washington State University (WSU) researchers led by Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, developed a portable biosensor that makes it easier to detect harmful bacteria. The WSU research team created a simple sensor that is able to detect and amplify the signal of the food pathogen Escherichia coli (E. coli) 0157:H7, which can cause severe diarrhea and kidney damage in people. This research was supported by NIOSH and the work was recently published in the journal Small.

r2p Corner

NIOSH Director John Howard and ASSE President Michael Belcher sign the partnership agreement at the ASSE annual conference.

NIOSH Renews Partnership with ASSE
Recently, NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) renewed their partnership through June 2020. As part of this partnership, NIOSH and ASSE will continue to collaborate in their efforts to protect workers by promoting best practices, supporting research to practice, encouraging employers to develop and use safety and health management programs. For more information email Dawn Castillo.Photo Caption: NIOSH Director John Howard and ASSE President Michael Belcher sign the partnership agreement at the ASSE annual conference.

FACE Reports

Granite Installation Company Owner Struck by Falling Granite Slab—Kentucky
On May 14, 2015, the company owner and a forklift operator were unloading slabs of granite from a delivery truck. The operator was unloading the slabs with a forklift equipped with a boom and a clamp. A piece of granite shifted, striking the owner in the head and pinning him under a granite slab. The owner died on the scene.

Driver Exits Burning Semi-truck and Falls to His Death—Kentucky
On June 8, 2015, a semi-truck driver was traveling on a six-lane interstate. The driver braked, swerved, and struck the shoulder of a bridge concrete barrier wall and caught fire. The driver died on the scene.

Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program Update

2015 Health Hazard Evaluation Program Annual Report
The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program is pleased to share its 2015 annual report. Our report includes summaries of projects that were interesting and other highlights of our year. We hope the report stimulates conversations about who the HHE Program is and how we make a difference for the health and safety of employees throughout the United States. A link to the annual report is available here.

What’s New on the NIOSH Science Blog? Join the Discussion Today!

New NIOSH Communication Products

Federal Register Notices of Public Meetings and Public Comment

Survey of Musculoskeletal Disorders Prevention Tools/Methods: 10-year Follow-up
The notice was posted on June 7. Written comments must be received on or before August 8.

Monitoring and Coordinating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Healthcare to Enhance Domestic Preparedness for Ebola Response
The notice was posted on June 8. Written comments should be received within 30 days.

Measuring Perceived Self-escape Competencies among Underground Mineworkers
The notice was posted on June 8. Written comments should be received within 30 days.

Call for Papers

INRS Science Conference
Call for papers. Deadline to submit is September 15.

Work, Stress, and Health 2017: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities
Call for proposals. Deadline to submit October 31. 

Upcoming Conferences and Workshops

2016 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media
August 23–25, Atlanta, GA

Alliance for Hazardous Materials Professionals
August 28–31, Washington, DC

Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP) 
September 7–10, Myrtle Beach, SC

MINExpo International 2016
September 26-28, Las Vegas, NV

American Public Health Association
October 29–November 2, Denver, CO

INRS Science Conference
March 29–31, 2017, Nancy, France

Work, Stress, and Health 2017: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities
June 7-10, 2017, Minneapolis MN

A comprehensive list of upcoming conferences can be found at

“This Month in History”

Thirty-four years ago, NIOSH testified before Congress about preventing workplace exposure to substances that can harm reproduction. In the 1982 testimony before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science and Technology, J. Donald Millar, M.D., the fourth NIOSH director, noted that reproductive research in the workplace had changed since the mid-1970s. Although early studies focused on the health effects of reproductive hazards among women and children, recent studies expanded the focus to include men. More information is available: NIOSH Testimony on Reproductive Hazards by J. D. Millar.