The Importance of NORA

Practitioners need the best information and tools to protect workers. Effective practice requires knowledge of what issues to target, tools to develop, and controls to implement. It’s important to remember that occupational safety and health is a system that includes practice, surveillance, and research. Each part of the system works most effectively when the other parts are fully engaged and interactive; none of them are effective in a vacuum.

As a practitioner, you have knowledge that’s critical to developing research agendas to help improve workers’ well-being. You know the issues you’re facing, and you know the limitations of the tools you’re using. It’s important that your voice is heard and that your needs are represented in your country’s research agenda. In the United States, the National Occupational Research Agenda process is a good place to start. WHAT IS NORA? NORA is a partnership program intended to stimulate innovative research and improved workplace practices. Through NORA, diverse parties such as stakeholders from universities, large and small businesses, professional societies, government agencies, and worker organizations come together to create a research framework for the nation. NIOSH serves as the steward of NORA. 
As a practitioner, you have knowledge that's critical to developing research agendas to help improve workers' well-being.
EMILY J.K. NOVICKI, MA, MPH, is a health scientist at NIOSH in Atlanta and coordinates NORA. PAUL J. MIDDENDORF, PhD, CIH, is deputy associate director for science at NIOSH in Atlanta. Send feedback to The Synergist. Editor’s note: A feature article in this issue discusses information from the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda for Hearing Loss Prevention, which was published in July 2019. The article focuses on items of interest to industrial hygienists and those managing work-related hearing conservation programs.

NORA is organized into 10 sectors to prioritize occupational safety and health research by major areas of the U.S. economy and seven cross-sectors according to the major health and safety issues affecting the U.S. working population. The 10 sectors are agriculture, forestry, and fishing; construction; healthcare and social assistance; manufacturing; mining; oil and gas extraction; services; public safety; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; and wholesale and retail trade. NORA’s cross-sectors include cancer, reproductive, cardiovascular, and other chronic disease prevention; hearing loss prevention; immune, infectious, and dermal disease prevention; musculoskeletal health; respiratory health; traumatic injury prevention; and healthy work design and well-being. HOW DOES NORA WORK? The work of NORA is carried out by councils, one for each sector and cross-sector. Council members represent the diverse mix of stakeholders from business, labor, government, and academia. Meetings are held both virtually and in person, creating a national venue for individuals and organizations with common interests in occupational safety and health to come together.  Each council has developed a research agenda to guide or promote high-priority research efforts on a national level. These agendas include research conducted by various entities such as government, higher education, and the private sector. NIOSH has its own strategic plan that guides its research, but the agency’s plan for 2019–2023 draws on the agendas developed under NORA.  Councils also share information, develop partnerships, and promote evidence-based solutions. For example, the NORA Manufacturing Sector Council recently published a web page on hazardous energy control. Members of the council compiled, reviewed, and adapted resources to help companies and businesses start or improve and maintain their existing lockout program. Another example comes from the Respiratory Health Council, which created a series of four short videos called “Faces of Work-Related COPD.” The videos feature interviews with patients diagnosed with work-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who discuss occupational exposures, their quality of life with COPD, and ways to minimize the risks of getting the disease. HOW DO I PARTICIPATE? NORA councils are open to anyone with an interest in occupational safety and health. Council members benefit by hearing about cutting-edge research findings, learning about evidence-based ways to improve safety and health efforts in their organization, and forming new partnerships. In turn, members share their knowledge and experiences with others and reciprocate partnerships. Visit the NORA website to learn more or contact the NORA Coordinator via email if you are interested in participating. 

Why Practitioners Should Care About Research