OHWC's Research Projects

OHWC’s new cycle (2021-2026) will have four new research projects:

Work-life  Check-ins:  A Total Worker Health supervisor-driven burnout intervention (led by Drs. David Hurtado & Abigail Lenhart). Healthcare workers are increasingly experiencing burnout, even more so during the pandemic. In turn, burnout has profound safety and health impacts on both, employees as well as the patients they care for. The Work-life Check-ins (WLCI) study will test the effectiveness of a supervisor-focused intervention across 12 OHSU primary care clinics, with the goal of identifying and addressing the drivers of burnout through support, increased awareness and utilization of resources, and Total Worker Health strategies. Study type: Randomized controlled trial.  Learn more about the Work-Life Check ins project.

A natural experiment for the impact of work schedule on cardiovascular health and safety in firefighters (led by Dr. Nicole Bowles). Firefighters often experience intense shift schedules, especially in light of increased call volume during the West Coast wildfires and greater community need. Working on difficult shift schedules can increase firefighters’ risk for accidents, and disrupt their health and time with family. In a partnership with Eugene-Springfield Fire Department and Portland Fire and Rescue, the study will examine the impacts of two types of work schedules on firefighter safety, stress, sleep, and cardiovascular disease risk – the 24/48 (hours on/off) versus 1/3/2/3 (day on/days off) work schedule. Study type: Quasi-experimental assessment of a natural intervention.  Learn more about the Shift firefighters project.

Translating an intervention to address chronic pain among home care  workers  (led by Dr. Ryan Olson).  Building on its success in OHWC’s 2011-2016 cycle, the “COMPASS-NP” study will translate COMPASS to support home care workers who are experiencing chronic pain, with the goal to prevent progression to work-related disability and risk for opioid misuse, and to improve their mental health. COMPASS-NP will expand on the original toolkit with an increase in ergonomic protection and a heightened focus on chronic pain education and management. Study type: Translational research project. Learn more about the COMPASS-NP project

Development and Validation of a Total Worker Health Climate Scale (led by Dr. Emily Huang). Emerging from her long-term work on the safety climate assessment, Dr. Huang’s study will focus on the development of a Total Worker Health (TWH) Climate Scale. This scale will encompass three dimensions of TWH Climate: Safety Climate, Physical Health Climate and Well-being Climate, and will be validated within OHWC utility and manufacturing industries. The goal is to produce a broadly applicable, integrated, reliable, and valid TWH Climate scale that can help organizational leaders and practitioners identify strengths and avenues for improvement, and benchmark progress toward safety, health, and well-being outcomes. Study type: Etiological research project; scale development.  Learn more about the Total Worker Health Climate Scale project.

  • The Active Workplace Study (Brad Wipfli & Steven Shea, MPIs): Exposure to sedentary work is an occupational hazard with significant health and safety consequences, including increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, early mortality, musculoskeletal pain, injuries, and detrimental changes in physiological functioning. As the number of sedentary jobs in the US continues to grow, effective interventions to reduce sedentary behavior in the workplace are increasingly important. This multilevel intervention will examine the effectiveness of varying doses of a Total Worker Health intervention, aimed at maximizing the utilization of health and safety resources, for reducing sedentary behavior and prolonged sitting among call center employees, who are among the most sedentary workers in the US.
  • Tech4Rest (Ryan Olson & Peter W. Johnson, MPIs): Sleep deficiency is a crosscutting factor for Total Worker Health that not only impacts workplace safety, but also generates excess risk for obesity, chronic disease, and early mortality. This is particularly true in long-haul trucking where drivers face very challenging sleeping conditions. Our project will focus on truck driver teams (pairs), where one driver sleeps in a moving vehicle while the other partner drives. Team drivers experience twice as many awakenings as solo drivers. We will evaluate engineering and behavioral interventions to improve sleep, reduce fatigue, and impact Total Worker Health. An enhanced cab intervention will alter whole body vibrations during driving and sleep periods, and includes a therapeutic mattress system and an active suspension seat. The enhanced cab will be evaluated alone and in combination with a behavioral sleep intervention adapted from our effective SHIFT (Safety & Health Involvement For Truckers) program. The interventions prioritize hazard reduction according to the hierarchy of controls, and will be evaluated with a randomized controlled design.
  • “Communities of Practice” in safety and health for home care workers (Ryan Olson, PI)
    Using a peer-led curriculum to organize home care workers into neighborhood-based WorkLife teams that provide education and social support for improving lifestyle (e.g., diet, exercise) and safety behaviors.
  • SHIP supervisor training (Leslie Hammer and Donald Truxillo, PIs)
    Training supervisors to use a team-based approach to support balance in employee’s work-family demands thus reducing stress and improving safety in City of Portland construction workers.
  • PUSH program for young workers (Diane S. Rohlman and Kent Anger, PIs)
    NIOSH developed training, Youth at Work, to create an online interactive training curriculum that addresses both health promotion and health protection, and develop a dissemination plan capitalizing on social media specifically designed to interest and be worthwhile to young workers.
  • Supervisor training to promote health/safety in construction (Kent Anger, PI)
    Training supervisor skills supported by behavior tracking technology in Latino and non-Latino supervisors in construction to motivate their employees to adopt and safer work practices and make healthier lifestyle choices (based on an employee training program on healthy lifestyles).

Download our one-pagers  from OHWC's first grant cycle from 2011 to 2016 to highlight our impacts, efforts and accomplishments workplace safety, health and well-being research:

Visit our pilot projects page to learn more.

While OHWC's focus centers around workplace safety, health, and well-being and in particular, Total Worker Health, there are other projects within the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences (Institute) that conduct research on these topics. A number of studies within the Institute are aligned with OHWC's focus because: 

  1. Studies are focused on work populations
  2. The goal of these studies, intervention or descriptive, is to improve the safety, health, and well-being of work populations within or across industries.
  3. Intervention components address the area of Total Worker Health such as the TWH Hierarchy of Controls and issues relevant to Total Worker Health (i.e., changing the work environments to eliminate or reduce work hazards, redesigning work structures, improving supervisory practices, enhancing workplace culture, and encouraging positive workplace safety and personal health behaviors).
  4. Outcomes of these studies include improved workplace practices (supervisors and employees), reduced injury, improved safety and lifestyle behaviors, and enhanced well-being.

What are these studies?

These studies are funded by grants other than NIOSH's Total Worker Health program and are led by PIs who are part of the Institute with the exception of one PI (of the MHAT study) who is at Portland State University. All of the PIs who conduct research pertinent to Total Worker Health are actively engaged with the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center. Click on the above links to learn more about the projects.