To gather wider input into priorities for the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – with the assistance of the LHSFNA – convened a meeting of interested Laborers, training center directors and trustees, regional health and safety fund staff and Tri-Fund field coordinators at the LIUNA Tri-Fund Conference in February.

“NIOSH is a kind of investigative and research arm for the Centers for Disease Control in the area of occupational safety and health,” says LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider, who serves on its research planning committee. “It is vital for the agency to hear the perspectives of people out in the field.”

Using a focus group format, the Institute’s staff first asked all participants to identify what three things NIOSH could do in the next few years to best help construction contractors and Laborers. Then, it went around the table, asking each participant to explain and add to the priority list.

In the end, the lively discussion produced four topics that were mentioned by three or more participants.

  • Demolition work. This is a growing market, particularly in urban areas where the lack of land for expansion drives a sharp increase in demolition and rebuilding.
  • Training – what works? A lot of training is conducted, but more evaluation of what methods work best would be useful.
  • Hispanic workers. All the issues are not understood. Certainly, language is a problem, but culture also may be an important barrier, as well as a means to more effective communication.
  • Business case for safety. Health and safety professionals often say that the benefits outweigh the cost of safety programs. More documentation would be useful.

Many other topics were also raised. These included:

  • Highway work zones and public intrusions
  • Changing demographic trends among construction workers
  • Noise
  • Partnerships for safety and follow-through
  • Night work
  • Back injury prevention and care
  • Bystander exposures to worksite hazards
  • Preserving good safety practices in a competitive industry
  • Mental stress associated with serious injuries and fatalities
  • Substance abuse and drug testing
  • Silica control
  • Falls
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
  • Safety performance on union and nonunion sites
  • Preventive maintenance on tools and equipment

NIOSH will combine these ideas with those from other discussions to define its agenda for the next several years of research.