Monday, August 11, 2014

NIOSH Launches Center for Exposure Assessment Devices

NIOSH has launched the Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies (NCDRST), planned as a central hub for the agency's work in exposure assessment devices. Agency Director John Howard says the increasing prevalence of sensor technology in both business and commercial applications–spurred by the advent of relatively affordable mobile computing–is “opening up a whole new era of participatory research and information sharing.” This wealth of new information and tools in turn has great value and future potential for safety applications.

Increasingly practical and prevalent monitors and sensors generate more data and make it possible to perform more thorough exposure assessments. In a safety context, the sheer speed of new technologies offers instantaneous measurements of hazards, which can expedite their reduction or elimination.

Worker empowerment could be another benefit of implementing accessible sensor technologies, Howard says.

“Through the use of these technologies, workers can help their employers, supervisors, and colleagues reduce harmful workplace exposures and become active partners in preventing occupational illnesses and injuries,” he explains.

While the promise is great, these new technologies bring new questions with them. Issues of accuracy and appropriate implementation are two of the most immediate, Howard says. Analysis of the vast quantity of data generated is also a complex task.

The NCDRST will coordinate national research and protocol development for these technologies. A new NIOSH topic page provides further information on the new center.