Engineering in the Division of Safety Research

Posted on by Sydney Webb, PhD
This week is National Engineers Week which is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) employs over 200 engineers and engineering technicians who identify, evaluate, develop, and implement engineering control technology to prevent occupational disease and injury. NIOSH engineers cover various disciplines including: biomedical, civil, chemical, computer, electrical, industrial, mechanical, mining, and safety engineering. Engineers are an important part of public health efforts. Many of the solutions developed by NIOSH engineers are adopted by industry, saving the lives and improving the health of American workers. To honor our engineers, the blog will highlight examples of their work throughout the week.


Engineers in the Division of Safety Research

The NIOSH Division of Safety Research (DSR) is committed to addressing the safety issues of the 21st century workplace, and is the focal point for traumatic injury research at NIOSH. The Division’s research programs are rooted in the public health approach, which follows the hierarchy of controls and includes developing protective technology through engineering controls to reduce and eliminate acute, traumatic injury to workers on the job. DSR has more than 20 engineers who represent a variety of engineering disciplines, such as mechanical, civil, computer, industrial, and safety engineering, and are in a unique position to help protect workers.

The following summaries provide two examples of ongoing research by DSR engineers.

Fire Fighter Advanced Driver Assistance System: DSR engineers are developing and evaluating the effectiveness of an Advanced Driver Assistance System for fire trucks that could help drivers safely negotiate upcoming road conditions, like curves, when responding to an emergency call at high speeds. This type of system offers a warning to alert drivers with road information with the goal of reducing traffic incidents, a leading cause of death among fire fighters.

Boom Lift Hazard Recognition Simulator: DSR engineers are working to expand the existing Aerial Lift Hazard Recognition Simulator to include boom lifts. The simulator for boom lifts will provide a realistic workplace with multiple, dangerous hazard types that users must navigate. Experienced boom lift operators can use the simulator to refresh their knowledge, while new operators can familiarize themselves with hazards they may encounter on the job.


The following summaries illustrate how DSR engineers and their research are protecting workers. 

DSR engineers recently completed an evaluation of mast climbing work platforms (MCWP), an alternative to traditional scaffolding. Their research examined the stability of freestanding MCWPs, their contribution to fall-related injuries, and the potential for catastrophic failure. The research team will share the study results with relevant ANSI standards committees for consideration in updating appropriate consensus standards. The team will also share results with the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, the Building & Construction Trades Department, Safety and Health Committee and other stakeholders to establish MCWP safety guidelines. Disseminating these findings is particularly important as the use of MCWPs continues to increase at construction sites. For information on the study and results, see the journal article Evaluating the Stability of a Freestanding Mast Climbing Work Platform.

Ambulance crashes are a major safety concern for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers and their patients. DSR engineers and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate partnered to conduct front, side, and rear ambulance crash tests to reduce and eliminate crash-related injuries and deaths to EMS workers in the patient compartment. These dynamic crash tests contributed to the development of 10 new crash test methods published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). You can learn more about these test methods and the many changes impacting ambulance design, testing, and manufacture in the recently released video series.

Engineers are also at work in the recently created NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research. This Center is providing scientific leadership to guide the development and use of occupational robots that enhance worker safety, health, and well-being. DSR engineers and engineers from across NIOSH are evaluating robotics technologies as sources of, and interventions for, workplace injuries and illnesses; supporting the development and adoption of consensus safety standards; and developing and communicating best practices, guidance, and training for safe interactions between human workers and robots/robotics technology.

We want to hear from you!

Please share with our readers examples of workplace safety and health problems that engineers in your organization have helped solve. Have a happy National Engineers Week!


Sydney Webb, PhD, is a Health Communications Specialist in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.


For more information:

Celebrating Engineers

Engineering and Public Health at CDC

Engineering Controls


Posted on by Sydney Webb, PhD

2 comments on “Engineering in the Division of Safety Research”

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Page last reviewed: March 12, 2018
Page last updated: March 12, 2018