NIOSH Risk Assessments: A Look at the Process and Their Impact
In conducting occupational risk assessments for chemicals or other dangerous substances, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) employs a wide range of information including data gathered via a fundamental multistep process. Here we review the steps of this process and discuss the impact of the risk assessments on several key groups.
Part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIOSH is deeply focused on the field of occupational safety and health. It notes three principal underlying goals:
- Conducting research to decrease worker illness and injury and to promote their well-being
- Promoting the health and safety of workers via recommendations, interventions, and capacity building
- Collaborating globally to increase the health and safety of workers
Risk Assessment Process Steps
NIOSH’s process for conducting occupational risk assessments includes four principal steps:
- Step 1: Identifying the Hazard
- During this initial step in the risk assessment process, health effect information is compiled and evaluated to gain a better knowledge of which effects are likely caused by the chemical and which should be evaluated in a latter step.
- Step 2: Assessing the Exposure
- In this step, the extent of occupational exposure is examined, often via NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs).
- Step 3: Assessing the Relationship Between Exposure and Response
- Chemical or other hazardous material exposure levels are evaluated in this step to determine the health effects resulting from that exposure.
- Step 4: Characterizing the Risk
- During this step, data compiled from the first three steps are used to characterize the occupational risk (e.g., type, scope), which in turn can be used to facilitate corresponding risk management efforts.
Some Key Uses
Providing valuable information on dangerous chemical substances, NIOSH risk assessments are highly useful for many different groups - from employers to researchers to government agencies, and more. Employers, for example, can implement improved protective measures with this information to help reduce hazardous workplace exposure. Researchers can benefit from improved risk assessment modeling. In addition, federal and other governmental agencies may use information from these risk assessments to make informed recommendations to reduce risk in the workplace and increase worker safety.
Having Access to Important Data
Data obtained via NIOSH risk assessments offer a number of uses and important benefits, including increased hazard awareness, research guidance, formulation of occupational risk minimization strategies, and regulation development. When dealing with chemical risks, it is also extremely important to have a deep understanding of specific chemical substances, their properties, and their many uses.
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