National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Definition

Purpose

The purpose of NIOSH is to gather data documenting incidence of occupational disease, exposure, and injury in the United States. After gathering and evaluating data, the agency develops criteria documents for specific hazards. By doing so, NIOSH helps create new knowledge about occupational health and safety. In addition, the agency acts as a leader in the United States and around the world in issues regarding workplace health and safety.

Demographics

In 2007, more than 5,400 workers in the United States died from occupational injuries, and nearly 49,000 deaths each year in the United States are attributed to work-related illnesses. NIOSH receives funding and helps fund programs to improve occupational safety. The agency is headquartered in Washington, DC, and Atlanta, but has staff in six other regional offices around the country. About 1,200 scientists work for NIOSH, and they come from a variety of backgrounds, including medicine, epidemiology, psychology, chemistry, industrial hygiene, and safety. NIOSH has 17 regional education and research centers at universities and eight agricultural disease research and training centers.

Description

NIOSH supports research and information gathering in a number of industries and occupations. In doing so, the agency tracks and publishes data on illnesses related to workplaces or occupations. These issues range from workers' allergies resulting from exposure to certain workplace materials to on-the-job traumatic injuries resulting from workplace dangers.

NIOSH staff also are involved in researching and publishing extensive data on how to make workplaces safer and how to prevent injuries. For example, the agency has several publications on safety in occupations such as mining, electrical and agricultural occupations, and how healthcare workers can handle patients without causing injury to themselves. To help identify and prevent accidents and illness, NIOSH researches hazards and exposures to workers in various industries. The agency also examines chemicals used in many occupations and the hazards associated with exposure to these chemicals. The agency participates in developing information used in determining standards for chemical exposure. NIOSH also conducts research and publishes documents to help employers and employees in response to emergencies that might arise from chemical hazards, along with other hazards that can occur in the workplace. These might include natural disasters such as flood, hurricanes, and earthquakes that could happen at any workplace, or potential emergencies more likely to occur in a certain area or industry.

NIOSH also participates in training and workforce development. This effort includes centers that focus on agricultural safety and health, hazardous substance training, and an emergency responder training program that helps teach emergency responders such as firefighters and paramedics about how to more safely respond to emergencies that involve hazardous chemicals or other materials. NIOSH conducts workplace evaluations to help assess workplaces for health hazards and recommend improvement to employers. The evaluations are free to employers and employees.

Origins

NIOSH was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the same act that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Marcus Key was the first director of the agency. Since 1973, NIOSH has been a division of the CDC. NIOSH created its first list of toxic substances in 1971 and, along with OSHA, created a pocket guide to chemical hazards for the first time in 1978. The institute launched its website in 1996.

Results

In some cases OSHA has used NIOSH data and documents as the basis for specific legal standards to be followed by industry. NIOSH databases are available to other federal agencies, as well as state governments, academic researchers, industry, and private citizens. The organization also conducts seminars for those in the field of occupational safety and health, as well as for industry, labor, and other government agencies. NIOSH prepares various publications for sale to the public, and it provides a telephone hotline in its Cincinnati, Ohio, office for answering inquiries.

See also Earthquakes ; Epidemiology ; Industrial hygiene ; Occupational Safety and Health Act .

Resources

WEBSITES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “About NIOSH.” http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/about.html (accessed November 9, 2012).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “About NORA.” http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nora/about.html (accessed November 9, 2012).

ORGANIZATIONS

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Education and Information Division, 4676 Columbia Pkwy., Cincinnati, OH, 45226, (800) 232-4636, Fax: (513) 5338347, cdcinfo@cdc.gov, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh .

Teresa G. Odle

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.