Pilot project funding


Grants for research on worker health and safety

Applications for 2022-2023 Professional Training Opportunities Program (PTOP) funding are now closed. Applicants will be notified by late September/early October 2022 about funding. 


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.

2021-2022 Projects

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

This project is a program evaluation of an intervention that aims to educate high school teachers in Oregon about self-managing pain, substance use, and in general their overall health. This project was created because of the high rates of drug abuse in Oregon, which has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The project piloted 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 will investigate whether giving oven mitts to dining hall workers is associated with a lower rate of burns, compared to dining hall workers who only receive standard PPE.

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

Animal agriculture includes inherent safety risks, and the best way of approaching and mitigating for these risks is through proper employee training and awareness. Compensable claims data from L&I suggest room for improvement, especially for livestock-handling injuries, back and eye injuries, and slips and falls. Our objective is to launch a convenient, proven, on-farm training opportunity for dairy workers.  

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