In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Occupational Safety and Health

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Historical Background
  • Related Disciplines
  • Drug Testing in the Workplace
  • Ergonomics
  • Governmental Agencies
  • Physical Hazards in the Workplace
  • Special Environments
  • Special Populations
  • Safety

Public Health Occupational Safety and Health
Arthur L. Frank
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0058


Occupational safety and health is the discipline that collectively looks after the regulation, inspection, and surveillance of workplaces and workers and uses scientific information to prevent injuries and illnesses in workplace settings. It is the part of public health that focuses on workers and their exposures as populations and provides diagnosis and care to individuals. Included in this field are the administrative measures to set and oversee exposure limits in workplaces and the policies to deal with workers who may have suffered an injury or illness caused by their work or work conditions. This is a broad-based field that uses professionals of varied backgrounds, all with the ultimate goal of disease and injury prevention.

General Overviews

Given the many scientific disciplines that come together in this field, one may need to look into various sources of information to cover all aspects. Several textbooks give comprehensive overviews of the field, including Wallace 2008, Rosenstock, et al. 2005, Rom 2007, LaDou 2007, and Levy et al. 2006. Each of these multiauthored texts takes on the wide scope of the field with sometimes differing assessments of the same potential hazards.

  • LaDou, Joseph, ed. 2007. Current occupational and environmental medicine. 4th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

    A paperback book written at an introductory level in the field but comprehensive in its approach. The editor has long experience in educating physicians in occupational medicine and was a journal editor for many years.

  • Levy, Barry S., David H. Wegman, Sherry L. Baron, and Rosemary K. Sokas. 2006. Occupational and environmental health: Recognizing and preventing disease and injury. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins.

    One of the earliest widely used texts in the field. The paperback has undergone frequent updates to keep it current and relevant. Good for an understandable introduction to the field.

  • Rom, William N., ed. 2007. Environmental and occupational medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins.

    One of the first texts to focus on environmental as well as occupational exposures. Edited by a physician trained in occupational medicine who specializes in pulmonary diseases.

  • Rosenstock, Linda, Mark R. Cullen, Carl A. Brodkin, and Carrie A. Redlich. 2005. Textbook of clinical occupational and environmental medicine. London: Elsevier.

    A comprehensive text focusing on the clinical aspects of occupational medicine. Edited by an experienced group, including a former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

  • Wallace, Robert B., ed. 2008. Maxcy-Rosenau-Last public health and preventive medicine. 15th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

    Perhaps the standard text in all of public health, first published in 1914. This edition keeps the tradition of having one-third of the book devoted to occupational and environmental issues. All areas are covered except for occupational health nursing and safety.

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