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January 15, 2024
NIOSH Bringing 'strategic foresight' to OSH community

John Howard, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) director, called attention to the institute’s efforts to bring strategic foresight to the occupational safety and health (OSH) field in NIOSH’s eNews, released January 3. NIOSH’s Office of Research Integration is trying to help safety and health practitioners look ahead and ask what may be coming, how it might affect them, and what theycan do today to prepare for the future.

Howard cited the pandemic, recent natural disasters, technological changes, and new data security and privacy concerns as recent examples.

The institute published a “flagship paper” in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health describing strategic foresight as a tool that can help shape the future of work. In early 2023, the institute shared the results from its first foresight project, which explored four possible futures and their implications for OSH research and practice. Last year, NIOSH also published findings from a second project focused on like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The institute started sharing strategic foresight insights on its NIOSH Science Blog and hosting a Foresight Friday @ NIOSH webinar series. NIOSH has posted a strategic foresight overview and collected publications and other resources on a Strategic Foresight at NIOSH webpage.

Recently published NIOSH-sponsored research includes data from Ohio workers’ compensation claims for construction workers and a study of levels of maternal solvent exposure and premature or underweight babies.

The institute also published several new Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) reports and a Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Report.

Unresponsive firefighter advisory

NIOSH also released a Safety and Health advisory on the rapid removal of unresponsive firefighters from turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). The institute cautioned fire departments and fire training facilities to ensure all fire instructors, fire officers, and firefighters:

  • Are aware of the common causes of firefighters’ becoming unresponsive while wearing turnout gear and SCBA.
  • Know why the rapid removal of an unresponsive firefighter from turnout gear and SCBA is important.
  • Receive training on when and how to rapidly remove turnout gear and SCBA, and routinely practice rapid removal methods.
  • Understand other recommendations such as the appointment of a safety officer, inclusion of emergency medical services (EMS), and adherence to certification requirements for Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers.

The institute released a report in 2022 on a career probationary firefighter’s death during SCBA confidence training at a fire academy. The firefighter was maneuvering through a tunnel prop wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), which had the SCBA facepiece covered to simulate visual disruption. The firefighter suffered a cardiac arrest, and the PPE was removed, allowing for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) intervention before automated external defibrillator (AED) electrodes were applied. Although the firefighter succumbed to cardiac arrest, rescuers removed the downed firefighter rapidly from the hazard zone, providing early access for the AED and starting CPR as soon as possible.

“Firefighter Down CPR” is a 10-step method for rapid removal involving multiple rescuers working together to remove unresponsive firefighters from their turnout gear and SCBA.

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