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June 28, 2010

Workplace violence to big rigs – celebrating 20 years of studying workplace hazards

Audio available

TUMWATER – To study the air that workers in auto repair shops breathe, analysts with the SHARP Program, the research group at the Department of Labor & Industries, bought a hunting vest and stuffed it with measuring devices, including several filters and three different air pumps.

To show truckers the stress their bodies endure when they jump from the cab of their big rigs, the researchers created a virtual simulation of a ghostly image leaping from several different parts of a truck and placed it on the trucking safety website, www.keeptruckingsafe.org.

And when the SHARP team learns of a workplace death, they don’t just add it to their statistics, but dispatch researchers to the site of the fatality to interview co-workers and employers, examine equipment and try to draw lessons from the tragedy, detailing their findings in reports presented on their website at www.Lni.wa.gov/safety/research.

Gathering data, studying the causes behind workplace injuries and deaths, and disseminating that information is what the SHARP Program has done now for 20 years.

On July 1, the program will mark its two decades of service with a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. symposium, “SHARP at 20: Occupational Safety and Health Research at L&I,” at L&I in Tumwater.

Guests are expected to include officials from several federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

SHARP is an acronym for Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention. SHARP researchers, which include epidemiologists, industrial hygienists, safety engineers, toxicologists, ergonomists and experts from other scientific disciplines, are credited with identifying a host of workplace hazards and offering recommendations to improve workplace safety and health.

“Since its creation, SHARP has proven invaluable in identifying workplace hazards and offering effective solutions that have had a profound effect on the lives of workers,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke. “The work that SHARP researchers produce is renowned, not just in Washington state but both nationally and internationally, for setting the standard in occupational health research. Over the years, this team has opened the eyes of many in a variety of industries.”

Researchers at SHARP have studied everything from construction and trucking to furniture production and agriculture. Their reports have delved into nail-gun injuries, falls from stilts, and lead hazards from firearm firing ranges. Their recommendations have led to new workplace safety rules in Washington state on workplace violence and outdoor heat exposure and a host of other safety and health recommendations.

“I am very proud of the innovative work and dedication of the SHARP research team members,” said SHARP research director Barbara Silverstein. “SHARP researchers may move on to other areas, but all of them remain dedicated to the improvement of workplace safety.”


For media information: Hector Castro, L&I, 360-902-6043.

Broadcast version: The research program of the Department of Labor and Industries is turning 20 this year. SHARP, which studies issues of workplace safety and health, was created as part of L&I in 1990 and has gone on to research a variety of industries across the state from agriculture to trucking. The anniversary celebration will be held July 1 at the Tumwater headquarters of L&I. Officials from federal OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are expected to attend. For information on SHARP, visit www dot Lni dot wa dot gov and click on the ‘safety’ tab.

Audio message (15 seconds)

Click the "play" button to listen or download audio (right-click and choose "save as" or "save link as.")

Voice of Hector Castro, L&I communications manager:

"You name any industry in Washington state and L&I's researchers with the SHARP program have probably examined its hazards. But they don't just study workplace hazards. The SHARP Program also tracks cases of work-related asthma, lead exposure, and burns from across the state to help focus prevention efforts. They are a key part of our agency's efforts to Keep Washington safe and working."

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