Pilot project funding


Grants for research on worker health and safety

Applications are now open for 2024-2025 funding. Deadline: August 19, 2024.  For more information, see Request for Applications.


The Professional Training Opportunities Program (PTOP) through the Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety offers small grants for research projects and activities that address worker health or safety.

Applicants are welcome from any discipline or field of study, including students earning associate’s degrees as well as undergraduate, graduate or post-doctorate degrees. Applications are also welcome from nonprofit staff and employees at organizations interested in developing expertise in occupational health and safety.

Grants of no more than $10,000 (including direct and indirect costs) will be made to support:

(1) A research project or demonstration.

(2) An internship or other learning experience.

(3) An activity or program.

All proposals must address health and/or safety issues in the workplace or for working populations.

2023-2024 Projects

Characterizing the Well-being of Oregon Commercial Fishermen: A Mixed Methods Study
Oregon State University
Awardee: Allen Chan
Mentor: Dr. Kelly Chandler

This project pilots the recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Worker Well-Being Questionnaire (NIOSH WellBQ) in the commercial fishing industry. Using a mixed-method approach, the goals of the project are to explore the validity of the WellBQ, identify priority areas of well-being for Oregon commercial fishermen, and to share findings with stakeholders. The project is an initial step in advancing holistic research and workplace practices that advance commercial fishermen's well-being.

Estimating lumbar spine loading when using a passive back-support exoskeleton among Dungeness crab fishermen
Oregon State University
Awardee: Mina Salehi Sedeh
Mentor: Dr. Jay Kim

The goal of this study is to 1) apply the motion of commercial Dungeness crab fishermen while unloading the pot to a human full-body biomechanical model and 2) add a passive back-support exoskeleton to the full-body model to investigate the effect of the exoskeleton on spinal load reduction for the unloading task.

OSHA-10 Course for Low Literacy Non-English Speakers
Casa Latina
Awardee: Vania Adasme
Mentor: Dr. Diana Ceballos

Casa Latina, with mentorship from UW and Seattle Sentences, will adapt the OSHA-10 training to be compatible for low literacy non-English speakers. The adapted course will be piloted for widespread use on the PTOP website with a small cohort of Casa Latina's members, who are Latino immigrant workers in King County.

Promoting Compassion Satisfaction and a Compassion Fatigue Resiliency Program for Research Animal Professionals
The 3Rs Collaborative
Awardee: Lauren Young
Mentor: Dr. Megan LaFollette

Through this project, The 3Rs Collaborative (3RsC) will both investigate the efficacy of, and create, resources that promote compassion satisfaction and reduce compassion fatigue in animal research. This will involve evaluating the long term efficacy of a compassion fatigue resiliency program, implemented in a multitude of institutions, by comparing survey data over a 3-year time period. This will also involve expanding current 3RsC resources to focus on promoting a positive institutional culture and peer to peer support, two key areas of focus that have been identified within research animal institutions and communities.

2022-2023 Projects

Examination of a firefighter's work schedule on sleep regularity and performance
Oregon Health & Sciences University
Awardee: Aanuoluwakiitan (Aanu) Ayeni
Mentor: Dr. Nicole Bowles

This project examined Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) Firefighters’ sleep-wake rhythms/sleep regularity (SR) on two different work schedules and determined how SR is impacted by a station’s call volume by using Actigraphy data collected over the course of 14 days and at three different time points. The project also assessed the impact of schedule-specific SR on alertness/vigilance using median reaction times from a three-minute psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) test. PVT data was collected from participants upon completion of a twice-daily simple PVT test over the course of 14 days and at three different time points. Sleep regularity index (SRI) was found to be higher on the 1/3/2/3 schedule compared to the 24/48 schedule however, not statistically significant or different by call volume. Median reaction times were observed to decrease with increasing SRI, although this decrease was not significant. Similarly, the number of PVT lapses on the three-minute PVT test were also observed to decrease with increasing SRI, but this decrease was not significant.  

Evaluating work-associated injuries among self-employed and wage-salaried agriculture, forestry, and fishing workers to identify injury burden and prevention opportunities
Oregon State University
Awardee: Solaiman Doza
Mentor: Dr. Viktor Bovbjerg

This project examined work-associated injury rates and lost workdays among self-employed and wage-salaried workers in the US agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AgFF) industry. We observed marginally higher nonfatal work injury rate per 100 worker FTEs (Full time equivalent) among the self-employed workers (1.4 [95% CI: 0.7, 2.7]) than the wage-salaried workers (1.1 [95% CI: 0.6, 1.9]) yet there was no association between class of worker and injury risk in the adjusted statistical model comprising sociodemographic and job characteristics. So, self-employed and wage-salaried workers in the US AgFF industry had similar work injury burden and their injury risk did not differ by sociodemographic and work characteristics during the study period.          

Measuring Safety and Health Risks at Yakima Valley Packing Houses
Fair Work Center
Awardee: Gabriel Gutierrez
Mentor: Julia Coburn

Between March 22-24, 2023, Fair Work Center conducted a series of focus groups with fruit packinghouse workers at its workers’ center, Centro Chinampa in Yakima, WA. Fair Work Center collaborated with University of Washington researcher Érica Chavez Santos to produce a report detailing participants’ experience in the packinghouses; their ability to report unsafe working conditions and to take sick time; and their experiences with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the state agency in charge of investigating both workplace health and safety violations and wage theft.

Examination of Glyphosate Exposure Among Latinx Farmworkers in Idaho 
Boise State University
Awardee: Dr. Carly Hyland
Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Curl

This project examined urinary concentrations of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, perceptions of the risks of herbicides, and perceptions of workplace compliance with the Worker Protection Standards (WPS) among a cohort of Latinx farmworkers in Idaho. We found that farmworkers received training in direct conflict with WPS that herbicides are inherently less hazardous than other pesticide classes, such as insecticides. This training appeared to influence protective behaviors, such as the lower use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while applying herbicides; we also found higher urinary concentrations of herbicides, but not other pesticide classes, among pesticide applicators compared with non-applicators. 

Employer Perspectives on Wildfire Smoke Hazards in the Agricultural Workplace 
Washington State University
Awardee: Molly Parker
Mentor: Dr. Julie Postma

This research explores the perspectives of agricultural employers, managers, and frontline supervisors on occupational wildfire smoke exposure. Using a mixed-methods approach, interviews were conducted with key industry stakeholders to inform the development of the survey titled, “Smoke Hazards in the Agricultural Workplace.” This research included survey development, recruitment, and analysis of results. Preliminary findings describe varying experiences and perspectives depending on role and responsibility in the workplace as well as identify gaps in training and education.

2021-2022 Projects

Increasing High School Teachers Understanding of Pain, Substance Addiction, and Healthy Self-Care
Awardee: Dr. Winston Kennedy
Mentor: Sharna Prasad

The purpose of the project was to support teachers who may need additional support, knowledge, or resources and to begin to disrupt the trend of increased substance misuse that has been exacerbated by COVID-19 in Oregon. To address this purpose, the project’s goal was to implement a curriculum for teachers in Oregon that educates them on pain, substance misuse and healthy self-care, while gaining feedback on how to improve the training.

Reducing Burn Injuries Among Student Food Service Employees at Oregon State University
Oregon State University
Awardee: Pemika Kruearat
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Rothenberg

This project investigated preferences between heat-resistant sleeves among Oregon State University dining hall workers. 

Promoting Compassion Fatigue Resiliency in Animal Research Facilities The North American 3Rs Collaborative
The North American 3Rs Collaborative
Awardee: Megan LaFollette
Mentor: Dr. Sally Thompson-Iritani

The North American 3Rs Collaborative developed a compassion fatigue resiliency start pack for animal research institutions that includes interactive webinars, informational packets, physical poster, advice on committee formation/budgets/timelines, and virtual research hub. This starter pack is currently being piloted by 7 diverse institutions and formally evaluated via a longitudinal survey. Results from initial surveys indicate that beyond compassion fatigue specific resources, changing institutional culture, and providing general mental health resources are important to employees. 

Experienced and Witnessed Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry Portland State University
Portland State University
Awardee: Fernanda Wolburg Martinez
Mentor: Dr. Charlotte Fritz

This study aims to examine the impact of sexual harassment on female employees in a restaurant setting. Specifically, this study will explore: the changes in the mental health of food servers due to experienced or witnessed sexual harassment, how a supportive organizational climate can buffer the effects of sexual harassment on the server's mental health, and whether the coping strategies implemented as a response to harassment are effective in improving the employee's mental health. 

Promoting On-Farm Dairy Safety Through Deployment of Worker Training Resources in Washington and Oregon
Washington State Dairy Federation
Awardees: Scott Dilley and Tami Kerr
Mentor: Dr. Elena Austin

This project involved working together across the dairy industry in the Pacific Northwest to deploy on-farm, tablet-based workplace safety training directly to dairy employees. This training is based on the proven work of dairy safety experts from New Mexico and Texas and provided an opportunity to launch this training in Oregon and Washington.

2020-2021 Projects

Sex Differences in Acute Pesticide Poisoning Among Agricultural Workers in the Pacific Northwest
Boise State University
Awardee: Meredith Spivak
Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Curl

This study investigated if women farmworkers in Idaho and one state participating in the NIOSH Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program are at an increased risk of acute occupational pesticide poisonings compared to men farmworkers. 

Enhancing Vital Practice in a School of Nursing
University of Portland School of Nursing
Awardee: Amber Vermeesch
Mentor: Dr. Barb Braband

A Qualitative Analysis of Decision Making and Research Utilization Among Firefighters
Oregon Health & Science University
Awardee: Shelby Watkins
Mentor: Dr. Nicole Bowles

Seattle COVID-19 Oral History Project
University of Washington
Awardee: Wendi Zhou
Mentor: Dr. Kim England, Yasmin Ahmed

The Seattle COVID-19 Oral History Project (SCOHP) is a collaborative research project dedicated to collecting the stories of frontline workers and labor organizers whose lives have been impacted by COVID-19. The project's end result is the creation of a publicly accessible oral history archive featuring various narrated accounts of the effects of the pandemic on individuals and communities. Interview recordings and transcripts can be accessed at the Labor Archives of Washington's online archive.

2019-2020 Projects

Assessing Worker Satisfaction with PFDs in the Bristol Bay Salmon Gillnet Fishery
Alaska Marine Safety Education Association
Awardee: Heather Brandon
Mentor: Jerry Dzugan

Vocational Health Internships at Iḷisaġvik College
Iḷisaġvik College
Awardee: Caitlin Walls
Mentor: Emily Gueco

Policy Analysis of Worker Health and Safety: Best Practices for Public Sector Employees Exposed to Wildfire Smoke During Work
University of Washington
Awardee: Alexa Yadama
Mentor: Dr. Tania Busch Isaksen

Examining Psychological Health Among Oregon Migrant & Seasonal Farm Workers
Portland State University
Awardee: Megan Snoeyink
Mentor: Dr. Larry Martinez

This project aimed to identify work and health outcomes among migrant and seasonal
farmworkers (MSFWs) in Oregon. We conducted 41 semi-structured interviews with MSFWs to
better understand their work experiences, specifically their work motivations, safety
experiences, and job resources. Our results suggest that MSFWs are required to complete
physically demanding tasks and are exposed to a number of workplace hazards including
exposure to climate hazards, dangerous chemicals, and contagious disease. Participants noted
that injuries and exposure at work led to chronic illness and long-term disability. Our participants
reported motivations for work, specifically in order to provide for their families and selves.
Similarly, participants described receiving social support from their families and community
members. Results from this study emphasize the need to implement workplace protections for

2018-2019 Projects

Characterizing and Communicating Lessons Learned from Agricultural Pesticide Misuse Investigations in Idaho
Boise State University
Student: Rachel Phinney
Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Curl

Assessment of Whole-Body Vibration and Work-Related Injury Burden Within a Public Works Department
Oregon State University
Student: Stephanie Fitch
Mentor: Dr. Jay Kim

Rural Alaska Native Utility and Construction Worker Injury Prevention Project
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Student: Chris Fish
Mentor: Dr. Noah Seixas

Rethinking Rural: Seed. Root. Work
Rural American Digital Lab (RADLab)
Student: Aurora Martin
Mentor: Nancy Simcox, MS

Check out the video developed for this project: Seed. Root. Work

Strategies for Addressing Occupational Health Hazards at the Workplace for Formerly Incarcerated Workers
FIGHT (Formerly Incarcerated Group Health Together)
Student: JM Wong
Mentor: Dr. Bill Daniell