Occupational epidemiology involves
the application of epidemiologic methods to populations of workers. Occupational
epidemiologic studies may involve looking at workers exposed to a variety of
chemical, biological or physical (e.g., noise, heat, radiation) agents to
determine if the exposures result in the risk of adverse health outcomes.
Alternatively, epidemiologic studies may involve the evaluation of workers with
a common adverse health outcome to determine if an agent or set of agents may
explain their disease.
There are currently no specific OSHA standards for
occupational epidemiology. However, a variety of hazards are addressed in
specific standards for OSHA access to employee medical records, recordkeeping, general industry,
shipyard employment, and the construction industry.
This section highlights OSHA
Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices) and directives (instructions for
compliance officers) related to occupational
Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved
State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement
policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are
identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted
different standards applicable to this topic or may have different
Recording and reporting occupational injuries and illness (29 CFR 1904). Prescribes that employers covered
under this act maintain records of job-related injuries and illnesses to
allow for developing information regarding the causes and prevention of
occupational accidents and illnesses, and for maintaining a program of
collection, compilation, and analysis of occupational safety and health
Rules Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records
(29 CFR 1913)
Rules of agency practice and procedure concerning OSHA access to
employee medical records. Allows OSHA access to employee medical records
that may be needed for epidemiological studies.
General Industry (29 CFR
- 1910 Subpart
Z, Toxic and hazardous substances [related topic
Asbestos [related topic
- 1910.1018, Inorganic
arsenic [related topic
Access to employee exposure and medical records. Applies to general
industry, maritime, and construction employers. The employer is
responsible to maintain records for each employee for at least the
duration of employment plus thirty (30) years.
Lead [related topic
1910.1026, Chromium (VI) [related
- 1910.1027, Cadmium
- 1910.1028, Benzene
- 1910.1029, Coke oven emissions
- 1910.1030, Bloodborne pathogens
- 1910.1044, 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane
- 1910.1045, Acrylonitrile
- 1910.1047, Ethylene oxide
- 1910.1048, Formaldehyde
- 1910.1050, Methylenedianiline
1,3-Butadiene [related topic
- 1910.1052, Methylene chloride
Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories. Monitoring
and recordkeeping was mandated because of epidemiologic concerns.
Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)
Construction Industry (29 CFR
Support of NIOSH "FACE" Program. CPL 02-00-134 [CPL
2.96], (2004, January 26). Describes NIOSH FACE research study,
which focuses on case identification and epidemiologic investigation of
fatal occupational injuries as a result of falls, electrocutions, and
confined spaces. Provides guidelines for the cooperation of OSHA with the
NIOSH FACE Program.
- Search all available directives.
Epidemiology has been
defined as the study of the distribution and determinants of health related
states or events in specified populations, and the application of this study, to
the prevention and control of health problems (Last, 1988). Thus,
epidemiologists are concerned not only with studying health, disease and death
but also with devising means to prevent illness and improve health.
- Beaglehole, R., R. Bonita, and T. Kjellstrom. Basic Epidemiology.
Geneva: World Health Organization, 1993.
- Last, J.M. A Dictionary of Epidemiology, 2nd
ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
- Levy, Barry S., et al. Occupational Health: Recognizing and Preventing
Work-Related Disease, 5th ed. Beverly Farms, MA: Occupational &
Environmental Medicine, 2006.
- Monson, R. R. Occupational Epidemiology. Boca
Raton: CRC Press, 1990.
- Hernberg, S. Introduction to Occupational Epidemiology.
Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishing, 1992.
- Case Studies in Occupational Epidemiology.
Steenland, K., ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Environmental epidemiology involves
the use of epidemiologic tools to study communities that may be exposed to
pollution, hazardous waste, radiation through air, water or food contamination.
- Steenland, K., and D. Savitz. Topics in Environmental Epidemiology.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- Kopfler, F.C., and G.F. Craun. Environmental Epidemiology.
Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishers, 1986.
- Goldsmith, J.R. Environmental Epidemiology.
Boca Raton, LA: CRC Press, 1986.
- Leaverton, P.E. Environmental Epidemiology. New York:
- Vital Statistics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- How NTP Studies are Used to Protect Human Health.
US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Toxicology Program (NTP).
- Toxicological Profiles. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Provides toxicological information in an A-Z index
including a Public Health Statement and ToxFAQs, a short information sheet
on each hazardous substance.
NLM Toxicology Tutorials. National Library of Medicine, Environmental
Health and Toxicology. Presents a set of 3 tutorials, covering basic principles of toxicology.
Includes databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, and
- Survey Design
Disease surveillance is the systematic collection,
analysis, and interpretation of health data in order to detect, control, and
prevent health problems. Epidemiologic surveillance is the macroscopic
surveillance perspective, carried out primarily by public health agencies on a
statewide or nationwide basis. These efforts seek to identify and quantify
illness, injury or excessive exposure, and monitor trends in their occurrence
across different industry types, over time, and between geographic areas.
Medical surveillance, by contradistinction, focuses its surveillance components
on the hazards and potential hazards of a particular workplace, company or group
- Halperin, W., E.L. Baker, and R. Monson. Public Health Surveillance.
New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992.
- Ordin, DL. "Surveillance, Monitoring, and Screening in Occupational
Public Health and Preventive Medicine, 13th ed. Last, J.M. and R.B.
Wallace, eds. Stanford, CT: Appleton and Lange, 1992.
- Occupational Mortality in Washington State 1950 - 1989. US Department of Health
and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-133, (1997, March). Also available as 1
MB PDF, 181
pages. Provides occupational
and cause-of-death information on 588,090 Washington State male deaths for
1950-1989 and 88,071 female deaths for 1974-1989 and was analyzed using an age
and year-of-death standardized proportionate mortality ratio program. A
detailed cause-of-death analysis (161 causes) is published for each of 219
occupational categories for males and for each of 68 occupational
categories for females.
- Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities.
US Department of Labor (DOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Provides data on
illnesses and injuries on the job and data on worker fatalities.
Health Interview Survey. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics.
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). Gives access to the Behavioral Risk Factor
Surveillance System (BRFSS), the world's largest, on-going telephone
health survey system, tracking health conditions and risk behaviors in the
United States yearly since 1984.
For information on general, occupational, and environmental epidemiology
methods, please see Occupational Epidemiology References.
Related Safety and
Health Topics Pages
Programs in Occupational Epidemiology
- Association of Schools of Public Health
- NIOSH Teaching Epidemiology in Occupational Health. Cincinnati, (1997).
Federal Government Programs
- A to Z List of
Cancers. National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
Studies. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Epidemiology
Branch. Provides an A to Z index of current studies including
Agricultural Health Study, Farming and Movement Evaluation Study, and
Farmworkers Health Study.
Comprehensive Epidemiologic Data Resource (CEDR).
US Department of Energy (DOE). Provides occupational epidemiologic studies conducted at many nuclear weapons plants, such as Hanford, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Rocky Flats, and Savannah River. They include data from cohort and case-control design studies, many of which have individual-level radiation exposure measurements.
- Occupational Health Guidelines for Chemical Hazards. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 81-123, (1981, January). Provides a table of contents of guidelines for many hazardous chemicals. The files provide technical chemical information, including chemical and physical properties, health effects, exposure limits, and recommendations for medical monitoring, personal protective equipment (PPE), and control procedures.
State Government Programs
Division of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology. Colorado
Department of Public Health and Environment. Provides information
to track, control and prevent communicable diseases and other conditions in
Colorado to reduce illness and premature deaths.
Right to Know Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets. State of New Jersey, Department of Health and Senior
Services (NJDHSS). Provides a collection of documents on individual hazardous chemicals. Each sheet contains acute and chronic health hazards, identification, workplace exposure limits, medical tests, workplace controls and practices, personal protective equipment, handling and storage, questions and answers, definitions, and emergency response information for fires, spills and first aid.
International and Private Organizations
Health Topics. World
Health Organization (WHO). Provides extensive A to Z index of health
topics with links to related publications.
Includes link to the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS).
- Health Topics. Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
- American Journal of Epidemiology
- American Journal of Industrial Medicine
- International Journal of Epidemiology
- Epi Info™ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) Software Download. Offers free software for download that is available
on the internet to assist in epidemiological studies.
Accessibility Assistance: Contact the OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.