Oregon Healthy Workforce Center Projects

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At the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, our research improves worker well-being by helping organizations prioritize physical and psychosocial safety at the workplace, design safe and healthy work, and develop positive work experiences. 

Current projects

Work-life Check-ins: A Total Worker Health® supervisor-driven burnout intervention

David Hurtado, Sc.D. 
Abigail Lenhart, M.D. 

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 (TWH) strategies. 

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A natural experiment for the impact of work schedule on cardiovascular health and safety in firefighters

Nicole Bowles, Ph.D. 

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.

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Translating an intervention to address chronic pain among home care workers

Ryan Olson, Ph.D. 

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. 

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Development and validation of a Total Worker Health climate scale

Emily Huang, Ph.D. 

Emerging from her long-term work on the safety climate assessment, Dr. Huang’s study will focus on the development of a 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. 

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Pilot projects

With support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, we provide funding for pilot projects that span the occupational health sciences. 

PIs and university organization: Dr. Liu-Qin Yang, Department of Psychology, Portland State University and Dr. Nanette Yragui, Safety and Health and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Washington Department of Labor & Industries
Description: This qualitative study will adapt and extend an existing intervention focused on preventing aggression and supporting safety in work life among nurses in the Pacific Northwest. Grounded in the Total Worker Health® and the intervention literatures, the research team intends to use multiple intervention activities to teach and strengthen nursing supervisors' day-to-day skills in effectively supporting their nursing team needs to manage and prevent workplace aggression and work-life stress.

PIs and university organization: Dr. Emily Huang, Associate Professor, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, OHSU
Description: This study addresses the crucial need for a broadly applicable, reliable, and valid Total Worker Health® (TWH) Climate Scale that assesses various levels of organizational leadership, including managers and supervisors. Such a scale would play a key role in identifying workplace strengths, pinpointing areas for improvement, and predicting outcomes related to safety, health, and well-being. By leveraging data from a prior TWH climate scale development project that focused on the company level (funded by the current OHWC Center grant), the primary objective of the current study is to finalize the development and validation of a supervisor-level TWH Climate Scale to complete the comprehensive TWH Climate Assessment Tool. The second objective of this study is to develop a supervisor-level TWH climate training with an accompanying behavior-tracking process. 

Past projects - 2016 - 2021 cycle

MPIs: Dr. Brad Wipfli, Dr. Steven Shea

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.

MPIs: Dr. Ryan Olson, Dr. Peter W. Johnson

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.

Past projects - 2011 - 2016 cycle

“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.

  • 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:

Learn more about our work

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