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‘A broader vision’: NIOSH experts call for expanding occupational safety and health field

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Washington — The field of occupational safety and health must adapt as “technology, globalization, shifts in demographics, and other economic and political forces create new challenges for workers, employers and those who work to protect them,” two NIOSH researchers say.

OSH practitioners can meet these challenges by integrating traditional risk factors, personal and socioeconomic factors, well-being outcomes, and changes that can occur over a person’s work life, Paul Schulte, director of NIOSH’s Division of Science Integration, and Sarah A. Felknor, associate director of research integration at NIOSH, wrote in an Aug. 19 post on the NIOSH Science Blog.

Schulte and Felknor, along with George Delclos, deputy director of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health in Houston, and L. Casey Chosewood, director of NIOSH’s Office for Total Worker Health, co-authored a commentary that was recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

To expand the focus of traditional OSH, the group wrote, “a more expansive, systems-thinking approach” is required to broaden all factors involved.


“This expansion of the existing paradigm will change how we conduct OSH research, train the future OSH workforce, and design forward-thinking policies and practices within organizations to maximize worker health, safety and well-being,” Schulte and Felknor wrote in their blog post.

They add that to support the expanded OSH integration, desired new skills will include applied economics, sociology, anthropology, human relations, political science, gerontology, education, informatics, program evaluation, business, corporate social responsibility, climate science, architecture, urban planning and sustainability.

“The OSH field will need to develop a broader vision, develop and use new skill sets, and partner with other disciplines and new stakeholders,” Schulte and Felknor wrote. “Expanding the vision and growing the field of OSH could produce a healthier workforce and enhance the well-being of nations.”

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