In April 1996, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and its partners unveiled the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), a framework to guide occupational safety and health research into the next decade. NORA is a tool not only for NIOSH but for the entire occupational safety and health community. Approximately 500 organizations and individuals outside NIOSH provided input into the development of the Agenda. Prior to NORA, there had been no national research agenda in the field of occupational safety and health (and no research agenda in any field) which had captured such broad input and consensus. This unique process resulted in remarkable agreement about the top 21 research priorities (see below).
Table (available in full paper)
NORA arose out of a need to address the changes in the U.S. workplace as well as the increasingly diversified workforce. The distribution of jobs in the U.S. economy continues to shift from manufacturing to services. Longer hours, compressed workweeks, shiftwork, reduced job security, and part-time and temporary work are realities of the modern workplace. The U.S. workforce will grow to an estimated 147 million by the year 2005, with minorities representing 28% of the workforce and women approximately 48%.
NORA also provides a means to target research in areas with the highest likelihood of reducing the still significant toll of workplace illness and injury. Each day, an average of 9,000 workers sustain disabling injuries on the job, 16 workers die from a workplace injury and 137 workers die from work-related diseases.
These injuries and deaths continue to inflict a tremendous toll in both human and economic costs. A NIOSH-funded study published in 1997 showed that in 1992, indirect and direct costs (including administrative costs) of occupational injuries and illnesses totaled $171 billion ($145 billion for injuries and $26 billion for diseases). These costs compare to $33 billion for AIDS, $67 billion for Alzheimeris Disease, $164 billion for circulatory diseases, and $171 billion for cancer.
These numbers alone point to the need for continued occupational safety and health research. However, research efforts in both the public and private sector face increasing fiscal constraints. Through NORA and its collaborative structure the nation is better positioned to address the toll of workplace injury, illness and death.
The development of NORA was only the first step in the effort between NIOSH and its many partners to guide and promote occupational safety and health research. Since NORA was announced, there has been a common commitment to implement the Agenda primarily by increasing activities and resources in the 21 priority areas.