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Public health approaches to occupational injury prevention: do they work?
  1. G S Smith
  1. The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  1. Correspondence and reprint requests to:
 Gordon S Smith, The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, 624 N Broadway, Room 545, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

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Occupational injuries represent a considerable part of the injury burden to society, affecting people in the most productive years of their lives. Globally, almost 1000 workers are killed by injuries every day, and about six of every 1000 workers will be fatally injured at work during a 40 year work life span.1 Non-fatal injuries are an even more pervasive problem. In the United States alone, recent studies estimate that almost 16 000 workers daily are hurt on the job, approximately six million occupational injury cases annually.2 The field of public health has made significant contributions to worker safety in the United States in the past century. In fact, one review3 concluded that two of the top 10 leading public health achievements were the decline of workplace injury fatalities from 37 to four fatalities per 100 000 workers between 1933 and 1997,4 and the reduction in motor vehicle fatalities (many of which are work related) from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1925 to 1.7 in 1997.5 While the above achievements demonstrate considerable progress, the wide variations in reported occupational injury fatality rates between industrialized countries and even within industries in the same country1, 2 suggest that much more can be done.

This special issue of Injury Prevention, and the recent National Occupational Injury Research Symposium (NOIRS) from which it derives, represent milestones in the public health approach to occupational injury research and to occupational injury control. The articles contained herein and my discussion in this commentary, demonstrate the new focus on the comprehensive, multidisciplinary methods of reducing work injuries that we believe will define the field of occupational public health in the new millennium.


The occupational injury focus of this special issue is significant for several reasons. First, it is gratifying …

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