NORA Publishes New Safety Recommendations

NIOSH has published a newly updated National Occupational Research Agenda for Public Safety (NORA) in the Federal Register asking for public and stakeholder comments on it by June 11.

NORA is a partnership program to stimulate innovative research and improved workplace practices. Unveiled in 1996, it has become a research framework for NIOSH and the nation.

NIOSH noted, “The purpose of public comment is to gather input from stakeholders who are not on the Public Safety Sector Council. Since this is a research agenda for the nation, we want as broad input as possible.”

This NORA Public Safety Agenda lists eight recommendations:

  • Reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases;
  • Reduce infectious disease transmission;
  • Reduce musculoskeletal disorders;
  • Reduce motor vehicle injuries;
  • Reduce workplace violence;
  • Promote healthy work design and well-being;
  • Increase surveillance; and
  • Increase resilience and preparedness.

To create agendas, diverse parties come together in councils and identify critical issues in workplace safety and health. Partners then develop broad strategic objectives for research to address those needs.

The following types of information help inform NORA’s priority-setting process:

  • The numbers of workers at risk for a particular injury or illness;
  • The seriousness of the hazard or issue; and
  • The probability that new information and approaches will make a difference.

The agenda explains why each of these is important. For musculoskeletal disorders, for example, it explains that they are often the most commonly reported work-related injuries among public safety workers. EMTs and paramedics reported the highest incidence of MSDs, at 184 per 10,000 full-time workers, and firefighters reported a rate of 179 per 10,000 full-time workers, according to BLS data cited in the agenda.

Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic diseases are the first recommendation because stress is such a big factor affecting public safety workers’ health, it says. Sudden cardiac events are responsible for 7 to 22 percent of on-duty deaths among police officers, 17 percent among wildland firefighters, and 11 percent among EMS workers, it says.