Research to Practice
"Research to Practice" is a term used by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to describe research applied to workplace solutions that reduce injury and illness. Such projects focus on the transfer and translation of research findings, technologies, and information into highly effective prevention practices and products that are adopted in the workplace.
At the University of Washington, UW CoMotion is instrumental in helping us apply our research to public health problems.
Examples of our applied research:
Best Practices for Welders
The Field Research and Consultation Group collected air monitoring data on welders' exposures to chrome 6 and found that almost 40% of the samples collected from welders working on stainless steel showed exposures greater than the permissible exposure limit. They developed a video training package applicable to all industrial sectors in order to raise awareness of welders' potential exposures to chrome 6. The Hexavalent Chromium Exposure Controls (HexChEC) video training package includes six modules on chrome 6 health hazards and best practices for reducing fume exposures, emphasizing the effective use of LEV systems. An accompanying manual and poster tool for assessing potential exposures are also included.
Professor Richard Fenske's work on the research applications of fluorescent tracers as a surrogate of dermal pesticide exposure has been turned into a practical tool to enhance pesticide handler training. Fenske and his staff at the Pacific Northwest Agriculture Safety and Health Center created this user-friendly manual in partnership with the Washington Department of Agriculture and Washington State University.
MRSA exposure for firefighters
In the last ten years, the number of hospital- and community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections—those often contracted in schools, public gyms, and in workplaces--has risen. Because MRSA can be transmitted from surfaces to people and from person to person, the increase in incidence has led to concern for first responders, including police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Fire personnel interact with both hospital and community populations as part of their job and have the potential to be exposed to MRSA as part of their daily duties. Professor Marilyn Roberts led the first-ever environmental health study on MRSA in Northwest fire stations and on fire personnel to determine the extent of related contamination and to help improve decontamination of the station and truck environmental surfaces. Information learned from the study was used to develop and distribute educational materials on best practices for disinfection protocols. More resources.
Safe breathing air
A Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) is essential personal protective equipment used by firefighters and rescue personnel. Water content can become a significant issue for rescue teams working in colder climates, where water vapor condenses, can freeze, slowly build up, and ultimately block the air tank’s regulator valve. OSHA requires the water content to be less than 24 parts per million, or even lower, depending on the outside temperature where the tank is used. Yet, water vapor is the most difficult component of breathing air to analyze accurately. Frequently, failure to pass the water vapor requirement is caused by the sampling itself, which is commonly done by fire departments using commercial measurement kits. With funding from a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Safety and Health Investments Project (SHIP) grant, the Environmental Health Laboratory developed the Breathing Air Quality, Sampling, and Testing best practices guidelines to help agencies and organizations better identify the quality and competency of kits used to measure compressed breathing air. Another report includes more technical details on these guidelines.
Occupational Medicine Best Practices
The department has worked with the state Department of Labor and Industries to establish several Center of Occupational Health and Education (COHE) sites in the state. One goal is to give workers the freedom to choose their own doctors. That means working with the physicians and chiropractors in the community, teaching them best practices for occupational medicine. A second goal is to reduce costs. Workers' compensation treatment claims cost Washington employers more than $1 billion a year. The cost to workers in pain, career loss, and lost income is incalculable.