Where do you get your information? A survey of occupational safety and health practitioners

Posted on by Clayton Sinyai


CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training receives NIOSH funding under a competitively awarded cooperative agreement that supports an extensive research program in occupational safety and health for the building industry. CPWR-supported researchers pursue original research in fields such as safety culture and climate, engineering controls for airborne silica and welding fumes, and the increasing use of engineered nanoparticles in construction materials, to name just a few. In recent years our r2p (“research to practice”) program has expanded efforts to share these findings with practitioners in the field.

But what’s the best way to reach them? In the course of our work, CPWR has amassed contact information for more than 1,400 occupational safety and health practitioners in the construction industry. The list includes environmental health and safety directors and safety staff, OSHA outreach instructors and industrial hygienists, employees of construction contracting firms and apprenticeship centers. We already share information with these contacts through CPWR’s website, e-newsletter, the electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (eLCOSH), and a host of social media channels, but we wanted to learn what other sources they turned to for information on occupational safety and health.

Using existing public data (such as impact factors for scholarly journals, audited circulation reports for commercial trade publications, and publicly visible metrics for social media) and interviews with select contacts from the list, we identified leading publications to represent important categories and channels of information. We then surveyed our 1409 contacts, receiving 319 usable responses (a 23% response rate). Some highlights from our findings:

  • OSHA led overwhelmingly. OSHA was by far the most popular source of information for the group. Fifty-nine percent (59%) said they subscribed to the OSHA QuickTakes electronic newsletter, and an astonishing 87% reported visiting the OSHA website in the past week. (A highly respectable 44% said they’d visited the NIOSH website in the previous week.)
  • Commercial OSH trade titles were critical. There are a significant number of commercial trade publications targeting construction professionals (such as Builder, the Journal of Light Construction and ENR) or OSH professionals (such as ISHN, OH&S Magazine, and EHS Today). OSH professional trade titles proved important to this audience: roughly one in five said they subscribed to ISHN, and a similar number reported visiting the OH&S Magazine website in the previous week. With the notable exception of the dominant Engineering News-Record, construction-oriented trade titles were less often cited.
  • Academic journals are for academics. Very few practitioners subscribed to the leading academic journals in the field, with only one percent reporting they received the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. (However, Professional Safety – the ASSE journal aimed at practitioners and delivered to ASSE members – was a very different story, delivered to 38% of respondents.)
  • LinkedIn led social media. LinkedIn is the professional’s social media home; some LinkedIn groups tailored to OSH interests have become hubs for more than 100,000 OSH professionals. A remarkable one-quarter of respondents reported visiting a professional LinkedIn group in the past week – twice the number that said this about facebook, and four times the number citing Twitter.

Our findings led CPWR to expand our LinkedIn presence. And after reviewing these responses, I consider the OSHA Quicktakes and the occupational safety and health trade magazines required reading, so I can better understand what safety professionals in the field are reading and talking about. I’d encourage anyone else working to improve occupational safety and health to consider adding some of these sources to their reading list as well.

Clayton Sinyai is the Communications Research Manager at CPWR.

Posted on by Clayton Sinyai

3 comments on “Where do you get your information? A survey of occupational safety and health practitioners”

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Page last reviewed: September 1, 2016
Page last updated: September 1, 2016