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Research Needs Pertaining to Work Organization Are Discussed in New NORA White Paper

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
May 9, 2002

A new report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests directions for new research that will help scientists and others better understand and assess the impact of changes in work organization on the safety and health of workers.

The report, “The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People: Knowledge Gaps and Research Directions,” was prepared by a working group of researchers from industry, labor, academia, and government under the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). NORA, which was established by NIOSH with input and review by more than 500 diverse organizations and individuals, identifies 21 areas where national research will do the most to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the coming decade.

Sweeping changes have occurred in the way jobs are designed and performed, in management and production methods, and in the human resource policies that accompany those changes, the report notes. The changes include globalization, restructuring, flexible employment, longer hours of work, technological innovation, shifts in workforce demographics, and many other dynamics pertaining to work organization.

There is growing recognition that those changes may have broad implications for worker health and safety, but they have occurred so quickly that they have outpaced scientists’ ability to understand those implications, the report finds. Consequently, researchers and others currently have only limited information for assessing the impacts.

The report suggests a comprehensive agenda to stimulate needed research to fill those gaps, including:

  • Efforts to design and implement programs and systems for collecting data to better understand how the organization of work is changing.
  • Increased study of potential safety and health risks associated with the changing organization of work.
  • Increased research on interventions, examining ways to reorganize work to protect worker safety and health.
  • Improvement of resources and training for researchers to help advance studies of work organization and occupational health and safety.

NIOSH has worked extensively with diverse partners in the private and public sectors to conduct research and disseminate information on work organization and related topics. One such information resource, “Stress … at Work,” suggests practical approaches that employers and workers can take to reduce job-related stress. The document, along with other information on work stress, is available on the NIOSH web page at

Copies of “The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People: Knowledge Gaps and Research Directions,” DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-116, are available by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). The report is also available on the NIOSH web page .