Need & Impact

Fatal work injury counts by event, recent years. Link.

Interest in industrial hygiene increased historically when state compensation laws compelled the American industry to find ways of reducing compensation costs. In 1913, the U.S. Public Health Service collaborated with the Bureau of Mines in the first major study of worker health in dust exposure and of their hazards (Townsend, 1950).  This study illustrated this occupational disease issue and led to the establishment of an Office of Industrial Hygiene and Sanitation in the Scientific Research Division of the Service.

A pattern of research into the materials and processes used in American industry and their effects on the health of workers was developed by this office.  The first report was published on the textile industry.  Other reports later on tuberculosis among zinc miners, lead poisoning in ceramics, brass foundries, mercury poisoning in fur cutting and the felt hat industry. The pioneer work of this office in the field of occupational morbidity/mortality studies has provided the foundation for future studies (Townsend, 1950).

In the U.S., the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed its Total Worker Health initiative to provide a strategy for integrating OSH interventions that protect and promote workers' health, safety, and well-being.  The literature reviewed concurs with this growing recognition of the importance of Total Worker Health. These integrated interventions target on the jobs physical risks, as well as the organizational/psychosocial stressors, and consider all health consequences for employees/families. Growing evidence indicates that integrated interventions contribute to improvements in safe behavior, participation, reduced morbidity/mortality, OSH programs, and potentially reduced costs.  A recent systematic review concluded that while this may improve health behaviors, there still need for further evidence on morbidity/mortality/severity trends (Sorensen, 2017).