Occupational Safety, Ergonomics and Injury Prevention Center aims to protect employees through research

Published: Oct 18, 2023 3:00 PM

By Dustin Duncan

Every employee has the right to safe working conditions. However, accidents still happen; it's a fact of life.

The Center for Occupational Safety, Ergonomics and Injury Prevention — part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University — aims to improve occupational health and safety by shaping the future of work through innovative research, instructional excellence and continuing education.

Officially established in 2017, the center is the culmination of years of research and funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) dating back to the 1980’s. NIOSH is the U.S. federal agency responsible for researching and subsequently providing recommendations to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.

NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was established as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The act also established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1971.

OSHA creates and enforces workplace safety laws, while NIOSH is a research agency that studies worker safety and health. NIOSH empowers employers and workers to create safe and healthy workplaces.

As part of NIOSH's mission to ensure an adequate number of occupational safety and health practitioners in the United States, they initiated funding for education research centers to prepare students to meet this demand.

Auburn University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham collaborate to form the Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety, serving as the region's sole NIOSH education and research center. There are 18 such centers scattered across the country.


Male professor points at a screen.
Tim Cook Professor Richard Sesek points at a screen while teaching.

Mark Schall, director of Auburn’s center, said Auburn focuses on two major programs: the Occupational Safety and Ergonomics (OSE) program and the Occupational Injury Prevention (OIP) program. Partners at UAB have allied programs in Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health Nursing.

“Those NIOSH programs represent the backbone of our center,” Schall said.

The programs provide a framework for the center to create and deliver interdisciplinary and hands-on training that prepares students for the challenges they encounter as they enter the workforce.

“Students in our programs leave Auburn prepared to lead their organization through safety and health challenges in many industries,” Schall said. “It is not uncommon for them to be promoted quickly because of the significant value they demonstrate to their employer.”

Schall added that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is also a prominent supporter of the center. He said the center’s faculty and students research and develop technologies, such as exoskeletons and other wearable devices, that can be used to augment human performance.

Students in the center typically earn one or more of three available graduate degrees: a master's degree in industrial and systems engineering (thesis and non-thesis), a master's degree in engineering management, and a doctoral degree.

A graduate certificate program is also available that’s designed for working professionals who seek to advance their expertise in safety, ergonomics and injury prevention. The certificate represents approximately half of a Master’s degree and many students pursue a Master’s after completing their certificate.

Schall said the center is also actively engaged in providing training to support the community on several safety issues. For example, the center routinely offers training events related to occupational health and safety to working professionals and other stakeholders.

“We are highly interdisciplinary. We are not industry-specific,” Schall said. “Anybody interested in occupational health and safety — we can help them in some way.”

For more information about the Center for Occupational Safety, Ergonomics, and Injury Prevention, visit www.eng.auburn.edu/occupational-safety-ergonomics-injury-prevention

Media Contact: Dustin Duncan , dzd0065@auburn.edu,
professor attaches device to female student

Hal N. and Peggy S. Pennington Professor Sean Gallagher works with a student.

Recent Headlines