THOUSANDS of workers face risks on the job, with new tasks and technology adding to some long-standing problems. The CDC monitors this through its aptly-named National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), directed by J. Donald Millar, MD.
Even in this changing world of work, some familiar occupations—such as farming—are receiving renewed attention (JAMA. 1989;261:343; 262:2195). As a reminder of hazards associated with agriculture, five members of a Michigan family died recently as, one by one, they entered a waste pit on their dairy farm and were overcome by methane gas. Data on the incident subsequently were collected by NIOSH, which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Morgantown, WVa (although Millar has his office in the CDC's Atlanta facilities).
Had the investigation revealed a new hazard, NIOSH staff members would have recommended steps to avoid future occurrences. However, because recommendations for prevention had been previously published, the accident was