NIOSH is Seeking Input on its New 10-year Plan for Motor Vehicle Safety

Worker safety is now an on-the-job priority—most companies, across all industries, have realized this throughout 2019. And, more organizations are also realizing the fact that a proactive approach to injury prevention and treatment demonstrates a strong commitment to employee well being. And they should—according to the National Safety Council, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds.

While these injuries obviously have a negative effect on employees, they can also significantly impact a company’s productivity. Workplace injuries often mean lost work days and lost production days. Regardless of the setting—whether it’s a manufacturing or office environment—employers increasingly recognize that addressing the work and non-work-related physical capabilities of employees optimizes their workforce and lowers the cost of injury and illness. It is good for the bottom line.

Given that backdrop, I’m starting to see a few different workplace safety trends emerge for 2020. Based on my collaborations with industry peers and what I’ve seen in client locations throughout the country, here are three key trends I envision playing out significantly in 2020.

Trend #1: Safety professionals continue to wear more “hats”

Gone are the days where safety professionals have one or two areas of focus or accountability. A continued trend for 2020 is that safety professionals will wear many “hats.” With streamlining and downsizing now increasingly common, and workplaces rapidly evolving, the days of safety specialization in a single category (fire, security, environmental, etc.) have become a thing of the past.

Instead, safety professionals are now tasked with multiple responsibilities and are more generalized in their respective approaches. The important opportunity for our industry is to steer safety professionals toward tools and resources that they can integrate into the workplace and help improve worker lives.

Trend #2: A more holistic approach to health and wellbeing

We have seen a substantial shift within the industry toward a more comprehensive approach to wellbeing that goes beyond physical health. The National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOSH) outlines a Total Worker Health concept, which has proven helpful for Health Fitness and many other companies alike. The concept is a holistic approach to employee wellbeing that integrates safety and health protection with injury and illness. This multi-faceted approach includes social, emotional, financial and environmental dimensions of health.

Formal research structure on work-related motor vehicle safety did not begin until 2010, but NIOSH had been collecting data long before then. Now, research efforts work to identify crash risk factors, develop and evaluate workplace interventions to prevent crashes and injuries, and share results with employers and workers.

While motor vehicle crashes affect all industries, there are some that cause greater concern than others. NIOSH’s strategic plan makes motor vehicle safety research a priority for the following four industry sectors:

  • Oil and Gas Extraction
  • Public Safety
  • Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade

The CMVS strategic plan for 2020-2029 keeps many of the same priorities as its previous strategic plan, but it has two major differences. First, it provides more specific guidance on tactics needed to achieve the motor vehicle-related goals in the NIOSH strategic plan. Second, it goes not segment research and communication needs by industry sector; rather, it specifies strategies and activities that will benefit workers in all sectors. The latter largely reflects the “crosscutting nature” of work-related motor vehicle safety.

Of course, with a topic as widespread as motor vehicle safety, multiple strategies are needed to address the issue, especially within the four identified sectors of concern. NIOSH plans to implement the following three, overarching strategies to address worker safety in motor vehicles. The official strategy draft outlines how each strategy will be implemented in each industry sector.

  1. Strengthen understanding of how risk factors contribute to motor vehicle crashes and injuries in occupational settings, and communicate this information to employers, workers, and others.
  2. Develop and evaluate the effectiveness of engineering and technology-based interventions to best prevent motor vehicle crashes and injuries, and advance adoption of these interventions
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of motor vehicle safety management programs and practices and promote their adoption

The deadline to comment on the RFI is Feb. 14. NIOSH hopes that with increased attention on work-related motor vehicle crashes and improved data collection strategies, it can continue to minimize worker risk on the job.