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Accidents at Work: the Safety System (5)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a US agency charged with doing research, assembling knowledge and literature on specific subjects in the field of occupational health and safety. Its twin US agency is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is the law-making body for US occupational health and safety. It also enforces those laws.

The NIOSH website records the following:

“In 2007, a total of 5,488 U.S. workers died from occupational injuries (1). Another 49,000 annual deaths are attributed to work-related diseases each year (2). In 2007, an estimated 4.0 million private-sector workers had a nonfatal occupational injury or illness; approximately half of them were transferred, restricted, or took time away from work (3). An estimated 3.4 million workers were treated in emergency departments in 2004 (the most recent data available) because of occupational injuries, and approximately 80,000 were hospitalized (4).

Work-related injuries and illnesses are costly. In 2006, employers spent nearly $87.6 billion on workers’ compensation (5), but this represents only a portion of total work-related injury and illness costs borne by employers, workers, and society overall, including cost-shifting to other insurance systems and most costs of work-related illness.”

And also this:

“Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were recognized as having occupational etiologic factors as early as the beginning of the 18th century. However, it was not until the 1970’s that occupational factors were examined using epidemiologic methods, and the work-relatedness of these conditions began appearing regularly in the international scientific literature. Since then the literature has increased dramatically; more than six thousand scientific articles addressing ergonomics in the workplace have been published. Yet, the relationship between MSDs and work-related factors remains the subject of considerable debate.

Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors: A Critical Review of Epidemiologic Evidence for Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Upper Extremity, and Low Back will provide answers to many of the questions that have arisen on this topic over the last decade. This document is the most comprehensive compilation to date of the epidemiologic research on the relation between selected MSDs and exposure to physical factors at work. On the basis of our review of the literature, NIOSH concludes that a large body of credible epidemiologic research exists that shows a consistent relationship between MSDs and certain physical factors, especially at higher exposure levels.”