Manufacturing is the fourth largest industrial sector in the United States, currently employing about 15.6 million Americans, representing aabout 11% of the gross domestic product. The White House has declared manufacturing to be a national priority. Manufacturing workers experience a higher percentage of nonfatal injuries and illnesses per capita than the US workforce as a whole. In 2017, the number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses within manufacturing was 4.26 million (12.5%).
Manufacturing workplaces are evolving as quickly as technology changes, and employers and workers must adjust to maintain safe workplaces. Advanced manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing and robotics, are changing the nature of work and are at the forefront of innovation and technical development. Many of these technologies have dedicated advanced manufacturing institutes, such as America Makes and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing. These institutes represent a combined investment of both public and private sectors to push the envelope of technical capability and improve the position of American manufacturing.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) Advanced Manufacturing Initiative and the highlighting of related technologies within the Future of Work Initiative represents the Institute’s own commitment to keeping safety apace with the rate of innovation within these fields. For additive manufacturing facilities, NIOSH developed workplace resources to provide information to handle metal powders and thermoplastic filaments safely. The NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research investigates the far-reaching implications for safety and health, from ergonomics of exoskeletons to behaviors of autonomous systems. NIOSH has also partnered with America Makes and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing to ensure responsible development of these technologies.