National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a federal agency in charge of preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. The agency is also responsible for conducting research that pertains to work-related accidents. The agency is part of the Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and has offices and research laboratories all over the United States. To explore this concept, consider the following National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health definition.

Definition of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health


  1. The federal agency in charge of researching, preventing, and reducing work-related injuries and illnesses.


Established December 29, 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon

History of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act, from which sprang both NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). The goal was to provide people with greater safety and healthier working conditions, not only in the United States, but around the globe.

Administration of NIOSH

As of 2015, the director of NIOSH is John Howard. Howard has held this position since 2002, prior to which he served 11 years as the Chief of Division Occupational Safety and Health Services in the California Department of Industrial Relations. Howard received his Doctor of Medicine, and Master of Public Health from Harvard in 1974. He then went on to earn a Doctor of Law degree from the University of California.

NIOSH employs approximately 1,400 professionally diverse people, from the areas of medicine, epidemiology, safety, industrial hygiene, engineering, chemistry, psychology, and statistics. NIOSH research laboratories and offices are located in Ohio, Colorado, Washington, and Georgia.

Goals of NIOSH

NIOSH has a specific plan for meeting important goals and allocating financial and professional resources. The agency’s three primary goals include:

  1. Doing research necessary to reduce work related injuries
  2. Promoting healthy and safe workplaces through interventions and programs
  3. Improving workplace health and safety around the world

Authority of NIOSH

NIOSH does not create or enforce laws related to health and safety, but makes recommendations for health and safety standards to the entities that make laws pertaining to the workplace. NIOSH also conducts research on the health effects of toxic substances, performs on-site investigations for toxic materials, and maintains statistics on health and safety issues that arise in the workplace.

NIOSH Education and Research Centers

The education and research centers run by the agency support different programs and research opportunities related to safety in the workplace. Since 1977, Education and Research Centers (“ERC”) supported by NIOSH have focused on educating post-graduates in areas of industrial hygiene, occupational medicine, and other specialty areas. The ERC also offers programs to businesses that wish to have their safety assessed. The ERCs are affiliated with schools of higher learning, such as the University of California-Berkley, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Tools Used by NIOSH

NIOSH has several tools in place in order to help prevent and solve issues when it comes to occupational hazards. This includes

  • Criteria documents – contain recommendations submitted to OSHA for consideration in creating laws related to health and safety standards.
  • Alerts – released by the agency to inform companies about newly learned occupational hazards.
  • The National Agricultural Safety Database – published by the agency, the database contains summaries of reports and articles related to the field of agricultural health and safety.
  • The Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation – contains occupational fatality statistics and data.
  • The NIOSH Power Tools Database – contains safe levels of power, sound, and vibration for power tools commonly used in a variety of occupations.

Health Hazard Evaluation

Through its Health Hazard Evaluation program, NIOSH evaluates workplace hazards at no cost to the entity or company. When requested, NIOSH sends qualified agents to the workplace to conduct studies and investigations into employee health and safety issues. If issues are found, the agency provides the employer with a report and recommendations for fixing the problems. Such evaluations are especially useful in situations such as:

  • Several employees suffering from the same unknown illness
  • The number of employees affected by a particular injury or disease is higher than expected
  • Employees are exposed to toxic chemicals
  • Employees are exposed to a previously unrecognized hazard
  • Employees begin showing side effects after being exposed to certain substances

Mine Safety

In addition to its authority above, NIOSH has authority under the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. This authority allows the agency to develop necessary safety protocols and recommendations for health and safety standards that specifically pertain to the mining industry. These include:

  • Administering medical surveillance for miners
  • Conducting on-site investigations
  • Testing personal protective equipment
  • Testing hazard measurement instruments

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Agent – A person authorized to act on behalf of someone else, such as an employee, broker, or sales representative.
  • Authority – The right or power to make decisions, give orders, or to control something or someone.
  • Entity – An individual, company, association, trust, or other organization that is legally recognized in the eyes of the law. A legal entity is able to enter into contracts, take on obligations, pay debts, be sued, and be held responsible for its actions.