MORA Research Priority Areas

The Steering Committee of the Maine Occupational Safety and Health Research Agenda (MORA) has been meeting since January 2001 to develop occupational safety and health research priorities for Maine. The steering committee decided on the following priorities based on review of existing data, extensive discussion with knowledgable sources, and professional experience. Working groups are in the process of exploring partners and funding for each priority area.

Occupational Asthma

An estimated 20% of adult asthmatics have occupational asthma. The actual extent of occupational asthma in Maine is not known because the occupational origins of asthma are often not identified. Research into occupational asthma will result in a better understanding of the extent of the disease in Maine as well identification of at-risk industries and environments. This could lead to preventive interventions that reduce the prevalence and severity of the problem. MORA will promote research into occupational asthma through collaboration with the American Lung Association of Maine, a leader in fighting lung disease and promoting lung health.
Contact: Leslie Walleigh

Cost Drivers

Historically, occupational safety and health programs have focused on the frequency of injuries and illnesses as a measure of the seriousness of a situation or the efficacy of a solution. In cost drivers we are studying the cost of workers’ compensation claims with the assumption that a more expensive claim represents a more severe injury than a less expensive claim. We anticipate that the information we uncover will lead to new avenues of research and new strategies to reduce occupational injuries and illnesses.
Contact: John Rioux

Toxic Exposures

This topic area concerns the presence of toxic exposures (physical, chemical, and biological) in Maine workplaces and the occurrence and prevention of the diseases that result from these exposures. Current projects: 1. Assessment of available data on the occurrence of occupational illnesses in Maine. 2. With the Maine Nurses Assn. survey Maine nurses regarding bloodborne pathogen exposures. 3. With the Maine Bureau of Health develop a pilot blood lead screening program for self-employed painters. Planned projects: 1. Convene a conference on research on the occurrence and effects of occupational exposures. 2. Use information from the Maine DEP Toxic Use Reduction Program to determine if certain potential toxins are causing health problems in workers. 3. Survey primary care providers to assess educational needs regarding occupational exposures and illnesses.


The number of Maine workers killed on the job has risen from 20 in 1992 to 32 in 1999. In 1998 Maine ranked second among New England states in worker fatalities at 4.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers, almost as high as the national rate of 4.5/100,000. The Maine Bureau of Labor Standards has initiated the development of a research program modeled after the NIOSH Fatality Assessment, Control and Evaluation (FACE) Program. The goal of the FACE Program is to prevent occupational fatalities by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then formulating and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace.
Contact: John Rioux

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) pose the largest single work-related health problem facing American workers today. MSDs include a variety of injuries and diagnoses. Back injuries alone account for over 25% of work-related lost-time injuries in Maine each year. Because of high incidence and costs and the extent of resulting disability, back injuries among healthcare workers are of particular concern. High turnover, low salaries, inadequate training and equipment, and lack of policies on safety and patient transfer contribute to the risk.
Contact: Mark Dawson

Aging Workforce

What occupational safety and health issues do workers face as they age? Who do we consider an aging worker? What age-related changes affect people’s ability to work safely? What are companies doing to address the safety and health needs of older workers? What factors influence retirement? In which industries and occupations do workers stay longer? Research on these and other questions regarding aging, work and health will enable companies to provide appropriate protections to the burgeoning aging workforce.