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HHS Releases National Agenda for Workplace Safety & Health Research

NIOSH Update:

Monday, April 29, 1996

Contact: Fred Blosser (NIOSH) (202) 260-8519

The Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), today released a national agenda for workplace safety and health research. The agenda identifies 21 priority areas for a concerted national research program to protect U.S. workers from job-related injuries, illnesses and deaths.

The National Occupational Research Agenda, which NIOSH developed in close collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders such as major corporations and labor organizations, will help the nation focus its job safety and health research on critical needs, improve the use of existing resources, and leverage programs where possible to meet common goals. NIOSH released the Agenda at a symposium at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, commemorating NIOSH’s 25th Anniversary.

NIOSH is the federal program responsible for conducting research and recommending ways to protect worker safety and health.

“Although great strides have been made in improving worker protection since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970, workplace hazards continue to inflict a tremendous human and economic toll,” said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. “With this agenda, we’re teaming up with private industry, labor and others who know that safe workplaces are good for the bottom line of people and profits.”

“The agenda is truly a collaborative product that reflects the expertise of the full occupational safety and health community and other participants,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D. “We look forward to the same spirit of partnership as we and others proceed to implement this plan.”

The agenda lists the 21 research priorities under three categories: 1) disease and injury (allergic and irritant dermatitis, asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease, fertility and pregnancy abnormalities, hearing loss, infectious diseases, low back disorders, musculoskeletal disorders of the lower back, musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities, and traumatic injuries); 2) work environment and workforce (emerging technologies, indoor environment, mixed exposures, organization of work, small business, and special populations at risk); and 3) research tools and approaches (cancer research methods, control technology and personal protective equipment, exposure assessment methods development, health services research, intervention effectiveness research, risk assessment methods, social and economic consequences of workplace illness and injury, and surveillance research methods).

The priorities were identified from many competing research needs on the basis of the seriousness of a particular hazard, the number of workers exposed or the magnitude of risk, the potential for risk reduction, the expected trend in the importance of the research area, the sufficiency of existing research, and the probability that research will help solve the problem. The agenda discusses the importance of each priority topic, and opportunities and strategies for research in that area.

More than 500 individuals and organizations outside NIOSH contributed to the agenda. Broad input was also achieved through a corporate liaison committee (chaired by General Motors Corp.), a worker liaison committee (chaired by the United Auto Workers), and a stakeholder outreach committee (chaired by the National Safety Council). NIOSH released a draft Agenda for public comment in February 1996 and held three town meetings in Chicago, Boston, and Seattle for additional input.

Copies of the agenda, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-115, are available from NIOSH Publications Dissemination, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226-1998, tel: 1-800-35-NIOSH, fax: (513) 533-8573. The document also is available on the NIOSH Home Page.