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New NIOSH Divisions Provide Proximity to the Western States

March 13, 2015
NIOSH Update:

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announces the formation of the Spokane Mining Research Division (SMRD) and the Western States Division (WSD), both new expansions to the NIOSH family. Approval from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) allows for the search for directors of the SMRD and WSD to begin while strategic development of the Divisions is underway.

The SMRD is a new Division located at the NIOSH facility in Spokane, Washington. With a focus on mining, oil & gas extraction, this Division will provide leadership for prevention of work-related illness, injury, and death in these extractive industries, with an emphasis on the special needs of these industries in the western United States.

The WSD is a geographically diverse Division comprised of non-mining staff at the Spokane facility, NIOSH staff located at the Alaska-Pacific Office in Anchorage, Alaska, and at the Denver Western States Office in Denver, Colorado. This Division will conduct specific activities that provide evidence to reduce occupational safety and health hazards in the Western U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.

Up until now, NIOSH has included amongst its research laboratories and offices the Spokane, WA facility, the Alaska Pacific Office in Anchorage, AK and the Western States Office in Denver, CO. The expansion to Division work allows for the increase of research, technical assistance, and leadership for the prevention of work-related illness, injury, and death specific to the unique aspects of industries in the western states.

“NIOSH has had a growing presence in the West over the past decade, reflecting our commitment to better serving worker safety and health needs in a region that increasingly drives our Nation’s growth and prosperity,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “Proximity to our diverse Western partners is critical for better understanding the unique nature of work in the West, expanding our opportunities for service, and responding rapidly to our partners’ needs.  We are pleased that our efforts have matured, and that, in building on them, we can now house these projects and programs at an appropriately senior level in our organization.”

Among the plans for the SMRD is the focus on laboratory and field investigations to better understand the causes of catastrophic failures in underground metal/nonmetal mines, to develop new design practices and tools to reduce risks, including concentration of toxic substances in the mine air, and to develop and recommend appropriate criteria for new standards, NIOSH policy, documents, or testimony related to health and safety in the extractive industries.

The Western States Division activities will include prevention research for at-risk populations, facilitation of occupational safety and health programs within state and regional infrastructures, provide outreach and technical assistance, and conduct site evaluations of exposures to hazardous chemical, biological, physical, and radioactive agents and recommend appropriate controls.

To view the Federal Register Notice describing the creation of these two new Divisions, please visit:

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. For more information about NIOSH visit