A recent article in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) noted that occupational epidemiology by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has helped to make the workplace safer and healthier for more than 40 years.
According to the CDC epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems.
The article notes that The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created three roles for epidemiology to be part of NIOSH's expertise. These roles have helped fuel advances in protecting against a wide range of workplace hazards. The roles that were developed and are still in use today include field epidemiology under the Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program, epidemiology in large studies across multiple sites, and surveillance for work-related illnesses and injuries.
The CDC states that NIOSH has successfully improved the ways to measure, identify, and address hazards such as traumatic injuries among firefighters, the risk of infection from sharps injuries for healthcare workers, fatal injuries among teen workers, and pesticide poisoning.
The CDC wants NIOSH to continue to work with occupational diseases and injuries into the future.
"The ultimate challenge for NIOSH is to not only effectively control occupational diseases and injuries that are the remnants of the last century, but also to preempt new hazardous exposures and conditions from gaining a foothold in the new century," wrote Dr. Halperin and Dr. Howard, the article's authors.
Along with NIOSH's accomplishments in workplace safety, advancements in safety products, such as respirators and protective coveralls, have also contributed to safer U.S. workplaces.