Celebrating 25 Years of a Safer Alaska


This month sees the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of the NIOSH Alaska Field Station (AFS).

From its inception, the mission of AFS was to combat the urgent problem of work-related fatalities in Alaska. AFS served as a “catalyst for change” by providing a scientific assessment of occupational safety hazards, such as identifying the state’s highest risk industries, the workers most at risk of fatality and the highest priority problems.

According to the latest NIOSH Science Blog: Making Alaska a Safer Place to Work, during 1980-1989, Alaska had the highest work-related fatality rate of any state in the nation, with a rate of 34.8 deaths per 100,000 workers per year compared to the average U.S. rate of 7 deaths per 100,000 workers per year.

The mission of AFS was to combat the urgent problem of work-related fatalities in Alaska. AFS served as a “catalyst for change” by providing a scientific assessment of occupational safety hazards, such as identifying the state’s highest risk industries, the workers most at risk of fatality and the highest priority problems.

In 2015, AFS joined NIOSH’s Denver and Spokane sites to form the Western States Division.  The Western States Division will continue to work to improve workplace safety in high-risk industries in the West.

Current projects not only look at reducing hazards in aviation and commercial fishing, but also oil and gas, wildland firefighting.  NIOSH also just established the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies.

The Center will conduct research to enhance occupational safety and health for the high-risk maritime worker population.

The “Alaska Field Station Approach” to reducing workplace fatalities has expanded to address similar high-risk industries in other states including those with commercial fishing vessels as well as the oil and gas and wildland firefighting industries that have aviation transportation as a hazard.