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NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services.

NIOSH Origins and Mission

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created both NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is in the U.S. Department of Labor and is responsible for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations. NIOSH is in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is an agency established to help assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by providing research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.

Information pertaining to the responsibilities of NIOSH are found in Section 22 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 CFR § 671). The Institute is authorized to:

  • Develop recommendations for occupational safety and health standards;
  • Perform all functions of the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Sections 20 and 21 of the Act
    •   Conduct Research on Worker Safety and Health (Section 20)
    •   Conduct Training and Employee Education (Section 21)
  • Develop information on safe levels of exposure to toxic materials and harmful physical agents and substances;
  • Conduct research on new safety and health problems;
  • Conduct on-site investigations (Health Hazard Evaluations) to determine the toxicity of materials used in workplaces (42 CFR Parts 85 and 85a); and
  • Fund research by other agencies or private organizations through grants, contracts, and other arrangements.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Amendments Act of 1977 delegated additional authority to NIOSH for coal mine health research. The mine health and safety law authorized NIOSH to:

  • Develop recommendations for mine health standards for the Mine Safety and Health Administration;
  • Administer a medical surveillance program for coal miners, including chest X-rays to detect pneumoconiosis (black lung disease) in coal miners;
  • Conduct on-site investigations in mines similar to those authorized for general industry under the OSH Act; and
  • Test and certify personal protective equipment and hazard-measurement instruments.

NIOSH provides national and world leadership to prevent work-related illness, injury, disability, and death by gathering information, conducting scientific research, and translating the knowledge gained into products and services. NIOSH's mission is critical to the health and safety of every American worker.

The Burden of Work-Related Injury, Illness, and Death

On average, nearly 16 workers in the United States die each day from injuries sustained at work, and 134 die from work-related diseases. Daily, an estimated 11,500 private-sector workers have a nonfatal work-related injury or illness, and as a result, more than half require a job transfer, work restrictions, or time away from their jobs. Approximately 9,000 workers are treated in emergency departments each day because of occupational injuries, and approximately 200 of these workers are hospitalized. In 2004, workers' compensation costs for employers totaled $87 billion.

Strategic Goals

NIOSH objectives include:

  • Conduct research to reduce work-related illnesses and injuries.
  • Promote safe and healthy workplaces through interventions, recommendations and capacity building.
  • Enhance global workplace safety and health through international collaborations.

NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors

    The Board is composed of renowned scientists from a variety of fields related to occupational safety and health. The Board members provide advice and guidance to the Institute in developing and evaluating research hypotheses, systematically documenting findings, and disseminating results that will improve the safety and health of workers. They also evaluate the degree to which NIOSH activities: (1) conform to standards of scientific excellence in accomplishing objectives in occupational safety and health; (2) address currently relevant needs in the field of occupational safety and health, either alone or in collaboration with activities outside of NIOSH; and (3) produce their intended results in addressing important research questions in occupational safety and health, both in terms of applicability of the research findings and dissemination of the findings

See the NIOSH Strategic Plan Outline 2004-2009 for more information.

See information on NIOSH Values.

NIOSH Locations

map of NIOSH locations Spokane Atlanta Washington DC Morgantown Cincinnati Pittsburgh NIOSH is headquartered in Washington, DC, with research laboratories and offices in Cincinnati, OH, Morgantown, WV, Pittsburgh, PA, Spokane, WA and Atlanta, GA. NIOSH is a professionally diverse organization with a staff of over 1,400 people representing a wide range of disciplines including epidemiology, medicine, industrial hygiene, safety, psychology, engineering, chemistry, and statistics.

Contacts and Organization Chart

NIOSH Research

NIOSH scientists work in multidisciplinary teams and carry out a focused program of intramural and extramural research to prevent or reduce work-related injury and illness. In 1996, NIOSH and over 500 partners established the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) , a framework to guide the efforts of the occupational safety and health community in 21 priority research areas. NORA encompasses research areas such as traumatic injury, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hearing loss, and control technologies. These priority areas were identified through extensive input from NIOSH’s federal and non-federal partners. Since 1996, NIOSH has aligned its intramural and extramural research to increase its investment in NORA priority areas.

Other Research Links:

Recent Research Accomplishments

NIOSH research has brought about important progress in occupational safety and health. NIOSH has:

  • Developed virtual reality technology to simulate elevated workplaces to better study the risk factors for initiating a fall, the major cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry.

  • Evaluated the effectiveness of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to prevent the transmission of tuberculosis in health care settings.

  • Evaluated state-of-the-art lifting equipment to eliminate low-back injuries among nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants.

  • Identified industries and occupations with increased risk for COPD and estimated the proportion due to workplace exposures by industry and occupation.

  • working wearing hearing protection Defined the current state of noise control technology for the mining industry and conducted over 3600 audiometric tests while training workers to protect their hearing.

To find out more about recent NIOSH research go to NIOSH Programs in Brief

NIOSH Prevention, Surveillance, and Training and Communication Programs

  • The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program responds to requests for workplace evaluations from employers, employees and their representatives, and other agencies. Through the HHE program, NIOSH identifies current hazards and recommends practical, scientifically valid solutions for reducing exposures and preventing disease, injury, and disability. A recent HHE involved an investigation of an outbreak of a rare respiratory disease at a microwave popcorn processing plant in Missouri. NIOSH determined that the workers’ illness was due to exposure to inhaled vapors from artificial butter flavorings. The company instituted NIOSH recommendations to protect its workers, and NIOSH scientists continue laboratory and outreach efforts to further characterize the nature and the scope of the problem.

  • In 1998, NIOSH established the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program to reduce fire fighter lineof- duty deaths and injuries through surveillance, investigations of fatalities, and development and dissemination of practical recommendations. Individual reports from the program are disseminated to over 25,000 volunteer and career fire departments across the country.

  • The National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) was established at the NIOSH Pittsburgh site to provide leadership for the prevention of injury and illness among workers who must rely on personal protective equipment, including respirators, gloves, and hard hats. NPPTL's strategic research program will ensure that the development of new personal protective equipment will meet real needs as work settings, technologies, and worker populations change and new threats emerge.

  • NIOSH conducts and supports a variety of programs to track occupational injuries and illnesses. These include the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR), which is a collaborative effort with state health departments to improve the recognition and prevention of occupational sentinel health events, such as asthma, silicosis, amputations, burns, dermatitis, and noise-induced hearing loss. NIOSH also supports the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Program (ABLES) in over two thirds of the states. Through ABLES, states track and respond to cases of excessive lead exposure and develop broader intervention activities.

  • Established in 1990, the NIOSH Agricultural Centers Program provides a national resource to address agricultural health and safety problems through research, education, prevention, and intervention efforts. In 2001, nine regional Centers nationwide developed over 370 collaborative programs with other regional and national agricultural organizations.

  • NIOSH supports training of occupational safety and health professionals and researchers through 16 regional Education and Research Centers (ERCs) and 35 Training Project Grants (TPGs) in 22 states and Puerto Rico. These programs are critical for meeting the increasing demand for occupational physicians, occupational nurses, industrial hygienists and other safety professionals. The ERCs also provide education to practicing professionals through extensive continuing education programs.

  • The NIOSH Web site provides access to the full range of NIOSH information and publications. In 2002, the site supported nearly 500,000 visitor sessions a month and the average monthly page views totaled 1.75 million. NIOSH is also communicating occupational safety and health information in Spanish through NIOSH en Español.

NIOSH Services

State Activities

As part of its mission, NIOSH operates programs in every state to improve the health and safety of workers. As part of these State Activities, NIOSH:

  • Evaluates workplace hazards and recommends solutions when requested by employers, workers, or state or federal agencies;

  • Builds State worker safety and health capacity through grants and cooperative agreements;

  • Funds occupational safety and health research on a wide variety of topics at universities and other organizations; and

  • Supports occupational safety and health training programs.
    For more information on state programs see the NIOSH state activities page.


NIOSH was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which also established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although NIOSH and OSHA were created by the same Act of Congress, they are two distinct agencies with separate responsibilities. NIOSH is in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is a research agency. OSHA is in the U.S. Department of Labor and is responsible for creating and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations. NIOSH and OSHA often work together toward the common goal of protecting worker safety and health.

NIOSH is committed to a workplace where all people are respected as individuals and are valued for their contributions to accomplishing its mission. The NIOSH vision for diversity is to enhance the organization's ability to attract, recruit, hire, mentor, develop, retain, and serve a diverse population by fostering an inclusive environment that embraces, values and respects all individuals.

Data Sharing and Privacy

The CDC/ATSDR Policy on Releasing and Sharing Data ensures that NIOSH routinely provides data to its partners for appropriate public health purposes and that all data are released and/or shared as soon as feasible without compromising privacy concerns, federal and state confidentiality concerns, proprietary interests, national security interests, or law enforcement activities.

CDC Privacy Rules - NIOSH complies with the CDC Privacy Rule. These regulations provide protection for the privacy of certain individually identifiable health data.

NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors





National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fact Sheet
DHHS(NIOSH) Pub. No. 2003-116

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