40 Years of Safety Research


In 1977, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognized the need for a separate group dedicated to safety research and as a result, the Division of Safety Research – or DSR – was created.

DSR serves as the focal point for the nation’s research program for preventing traumatic occupational injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, workplace violence, machinery-related events, confined space incidents, and electrocutions.

Each day, on average, 13 U.S. workers die on the job from a traumatic injury, almost 2,500 suffer disabling injuries that keep them away from work, and many more sustain other non-fatal injuries (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). An economic analysis suggested that traumatic occupational deaths and injuries cost the nation $192 billion annually (Leigh 2012).

While these numbers have improved over the past 40 years, due in part to the work of DSR, the numbers remain too high, and efforts to reduce the toll of traumatic injuries on U.S. workers continues.

The Division currently has approximately 70 staff, including epidemiologists, statisticians, occupational safety and health specialists, research engineers, technicians, health communicators, and administrative staff.  The Division’s research is rooted in a public health approach which includes:

  • Injury data collection and analysis;
  • Field investigations;
  • Analytic epidemiology;
  • Protective technology; and
  • Safety engineering.

In 1982, NIOSH introduced the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program, which has investigated more than 2,500 worker deaths to date.