John Howard, M.D.
For many of us the New Year is a time for reflection on what we have accomplished and a time to look forward and make our resolutions for the upcoming year. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some NIOSH milestones and highlights of 2012 as well as some of our upcoming activities in 2013.
In 2012 as always our strong partnerships played a big role in creating and disseminating worker safety and health information. Some highlights of these activities include:
- Continued partnerships on understanding the occupational health implications of nanotechnology, advancing scientists’ ability to conduct risk assessment, and identifying prudent workplace controls and health practices. Notably, 2012 saw publication of the updated document Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace. As we enter the second decade of our strategic nanotechnology research partnerships, we continue to strive to address stakeholders’ priority needs.
- Continued collaborations with our partners at OSHA and MSHA, providing robust scientific data that help our fellow agencies address the increasingly complex challenges that they and we face. These collaborations include pioneering field studies and a Hazard alert with OSHA on hydraulic fracturing: illustrating our partnerships to promote safe and economically robust U.S. energy production (also including motor vehicle safety studies in oil/gas and through-the-ground emergency radio transmission in mining).
- The Fall Prevention Campaign provides an example of our success in marshaling diverse partners to disseminate and use strategies on a large scale that would be difficult for any one agency, company, union, or professional safety organization to undertake alone.
Most recently NIOSH is working with partners to encourage inclusion of occupational information into Electronic Health Records and addressing new frontiers in medical technologies and IT. Thus, reflecting strategic advancements in moving from film-based to digital radiography for identifying work-related pneumoconiosis.
Also of note in 2012, the World Trade Center Health Program continued to provide service to the World Trade Center community under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2012 and engaged the complex issue of cancers associated with WTC exposures, at stakeholders' request.
As we move forward in 2013 NIOSH has many projects planned as well as many already underway.
In 2013 NIOSH will engage partners and the public as we plan and take needed steps in aligning the NIOSH cancer policy with new knowledge since its last revision in 1996.
NIOSH will continue to enlist new partners with the Total Worker Health™ initiative, with the 2013 national conference on work, stress, and health to highlight new research in that area. We have had great success in partnering with our co-sponsors, the American Psychological Association and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, on earlier national conferences, and we welcome the opportunity to give special attention to Total Worker Health™ in the 2013 conference.
We are also reviewing the 2012 report by the independent reviewers of the Ag program, and determining steps ahead. This illustrates ongoing positive impact of the National Academies program review initiative and the value that NIOSH and partners in the agricultural community have brought to safety in this fundamental American industry.
New initiatives in the extramural research program in 2013 will include key stakeholder engagement in the development of a clearly articulated research portfolio of diverse projects that reflect the strategic research priorities in occupational safety and health, and an integrated approach toward high impact research and performance measurement. Initiatives under our legislative mandate of supporting training for occupational safety and health professionals will continue to respond to a documented national need that is estimated to surpass supply in the coming years. To facilitate information dissemination, reporting of extramural performance data is now a regularly reported on the NIOSH OEP website.
2013 also brings us closer to the beginning of the second half of the second decade of NORA and thus planning ahead as we approach 2016, the 20th anniversary.
2012 illustrated the continuing importance of emergency preparedness, and marked the milestone of incorporating emergency responder health monitoring/surveillance in national response protocols. I look forward to further engagement with partners in 2013 as we continue to advance research to serve the health and safety needs of responders, including research to help ensure that personal protective equipment keeps pace with emerging needs in 21st Century emergency response.
There are always uncertainties in predicting the future, but we know that the major changes that have swept the workplace and working life over the last decade – an increasingly diverse workforce, changes in working arrangements, more people nearing or reaching retirement age, impact of new technologies – will continue to influence events in the foreseeable future.A safe and healthy workforce is a vital component of U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. We look forward to further opportunities in 2013 to serve this national need.