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) and generates new knowledge in the field of occupational safety and health and transfers that knowledge into practice for the betterment of workers. NIOSH has been a Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the WHO regional office for the Americas, since 1976.
Partnership with PAHO
NIOSH, CDC, PAHO, and WHO are working closely with PAHO member states on several projects to improve the health and safety of workers:
I. Americas Initiative to Eliminate Silicosis
The Americas Initiative to Eliminate Silicosis is a joint project with WHO, PAHO, ILO, and countries of the Americas to control silica exposures, and strengthen surveillance, radiographic reading, spirometry, laboratory analysis, and personal protective equipment programs. This work has included:
- Training of trainers in Chile, Brazil, and Peru in dust control methods
- Developing simple guidance for employers to implement controls (e.g., control banding)
- Visiting small quarries, stone crushing and stone craft worksites to develop customized simple guidance sheets
- Training physicians from Chile, Brazil, and Peru in radiographic reading
- Developing regional silica reference laboratories in Chile and Peru
- Training in industrial hygiene statistics in Chile
It is the first regional approach to silicosis prevention and is based upon the sharing of expertise to benefit many countries. Training and program development will continue in all these topic areas; for example, we will provide the US-Colombia Train-the Trainer Workshop on Underground Coal Mine Safety and Health in 2009.
NIOSH’s technical assistance in the Region enables countries to develop their own capacity to implement National Plans to eliminate silicosis. This partnership is a model for other countries and is helping to meet the ILO/WHO goal to eliminate silicosis by 2030.
II. Global Road Safety for Workers
The goal of this project is to share best practices that protect workers (drivers and road workers) from injuries. NIOSH, WHO, PAHO, ILO, the U.S State Department, and National Safety Council organized the first International Conference on Road Safety at Work in February 2009 in Washington DC with the participation of approximately 220 delegates from 40 countries.
We now offer a Wikipedia site and online library that houses resources from around the world related to the prevention of job-related road traffic injuries and deaths
III. Protecting health care workers
A global study conducted by the Americas Initiative for Health Care Workers (organized by NIOSH, PAHO, and WHO) found that 3 out of 35 million healthcare workers in the Region are exposed to blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. In Latin America, occupational exposure accounts for 83% of hepatitis B, 55% of hepatitis C, and 11% of HIV. The “Protecting health care workers: preventing needle-stick injuries” toolkit which was first developed by NIOSH and WHO in South Africa has been translated to Spanish and adapted for Latin America. The toolkit provides resources and information to employers and workers on how to prevent exposure to blood-borne pathogens in the health care sector. It is available online at:
- The Project also helps build capacity by developing sustainable expertise within academic institutions, employers, and frontline workers. The pilot project reached 30,000 healthcare workers in Venezuela, and has now been launched in Peru along with a national campaign to immunize healthcare workers. Because of its success, many countries in and outside of the Americas are adopting the project.
- Lastly, NIOSH is providing technical assistance for the First Regional Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean: “Health Protection of Health Care Workers,” which would be held in September 2009 in Venezuela.