unexpected or underestimated workplace hazards and relating them to worker exposures or circumstances. However, certain occupational groups might not fully benefit from program activities, particularly those from small businesses and underserved populations. The committee recommends that the HHE Program take steps to acquaint such groups with its services and elicit more requests for investigations from them. In addition, funding limitations and obligations associated with emergency response might dilute program efforts and reduce effectiveness. Finally, the committee believes that the HHE Program could help to develop a national occupational health surveillance system to facilitate recognition of emerging hazards.
On the basis of a scoring system of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the committee rates both the relevance and the impact of the HHE Program as 4. If the committee had not been restricted to the use of integers, both scores would have been between 4 and 5.
In 2005, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) asked the National Academies to evaluate the relevance, impact, and future directions of up to 15 of its research programs. One of the programs was the Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program, which does not conduct traditional research but is mandated to respond to requests for assistance to identify specific workplace conditions that pose health hazards to workers. In 2007, the National Research Council formed the Committee to Review the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation Program.
The mission of the HHE Program is to respond to written requests to investigate potential occupational health hazards in workplaces, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the Federal Mine and Safety Act of 1977, and in federal agencies, including the military. The law defines who may submit requests for investigations: a request must be from an employer, a union, an employee representing at least two other employees, a single employee if the work area of concern has three or fewer employees, a federal agency health and safety committee or federal employees not covered by such a committee, or the secretary of labor (NIOSH, 2007b). Responses to requests vary from written or oral consultations on technical matters to full-scale onsite investigations. The program conducts field evaluations and consultations, responds to emergencies, and provides occupational health training for health professionals.
The committee had several discussions about how to evaluate the relevance of the HHE Program (Does the program address the right issues?) separately from its impact (Does the program address the issues effectively?). The committee evaluated