NIOSH California Labor Lab

The mission of the California Labor Laboratory is to extend the pursuit of health and safety for workers in traditional employment to those in a wide range of alternative arrangements in partnership with affected communities. The Labor Lab is designed to document the extent to which these new forms of work are being used, to gauge their effect on the health of the working age population of the State, and to engage with workers, employers, and policymakers to mitigate these effects.

Collaborating Organizations

California is unique in its size, and in the diversity of its population and economy.  It has been in the forefront of several trends in the labor market, including the increased use of alternative ways of getting work done (e.g. “gig work”), project-based work, and contract employment; in the growth of contingent forms of employment; and in the erosion of traditional working conditions.

The Labor Lab is designed to document the extent to which these new forms of work are being used, to gauge their effect on the health of the working age population of the State, and to engage with workers, employers, and policymakers to mitigate these effects.

The California Labor Laboratory is a NIOSH Center of Excellence for Total Worker Health®. The Lab is a collaboration among investigators from UCSF and UC Berkeley as well as the CA Department of Public Health.  Participating academic units at UCSF include the Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Division of Rheumatology, and Preventive Dentistry. Participating units at UCB include Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces, Labor Occupational Health Program, Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, and Labor Center. Other members of the Labor Lab team are from the School of Public Health at UCLA and the Kennedy School at Harvard.

The CA Labor Lab is housed within the Philip R Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. The Lab is a collaborative venture of investigators from several departments at UCSF and UC Berkeley, along with partners at the California Department of Public Health, UCLA School of Public Health, and Harvard University Kennedy School. The Lab is funded through the NIOSH Total Worker Health® program.

Outreach Core

Leadership of the CA Labor Lab Outreach Core

  • Cristina Banks, PhD, Director of Outreach
  • Laura Stock, PhD, Director of Community Engagement
  • Victor Rubin, PhD, Director of Policy Forum

Activities of the Outreach Core

  • Consolidation of known science and practice

    • The Outreach Core is dedicated to providing an accurate and comprehensive body of knowledge to researchers, practitioners, educators, and the general public regarding the science and practice of creating work and workplaces that prevent harms and promote health and well-being.  This knowledge can be used to stimulate new research studies, develop mitigation and prevention strategies, build or modify physical workspaces, create organizational programs and practices, inspire educational curricula, initiate or modify existing certification programs to incorporate new knowledge, and generate new policy formulation and legislation.  This will be achieved by extensive literature reviews of existing scientific studies and organizational best practices across multiple relevant disciplines regarding worker physical and mental health and well-being, and by new data collection on emerging working conditions and alternative work arrangements conducted over 2022 and 2023.
  • Community engagement

    • The California Labor Lab is committed to the concepts of Community Engagement and Research to Practice.  Our goal is to ensure that our research, outreach, policy, and engagement activities reflect and serve impacted communities. Community engagement will take several forms.
    • Community Engagement Activities
      • Each Labor Lab research project will engage members of the worker populations affected by the research to participate in all phases of the project.
      • The Outreach Core will provide support and consultation to the research teams to ensure targeted populations, especially vulnerable groups, are involved in addressing needs.
      • The Outreach Core will convene a center-wide Community Engagement Board whose membership represents diverse populations affected by the changing nature of work including labor unions, worker centers, community-based organizations, and advocacy groups.
      • The Community Engagement Board will be engaged in strategic planning for the Labor Lab as a whole, reviewing research progress, providing input into new research, policy and outreach directions.
    • Promoting Research to Practice
      • Research to practice (R2P) refers to the basic principle that research needs to serve a purpose and lead to action and improved health in the community.  R2P also involves a “practice to research” (P2R) orientation which is about setting research agendas that originate with—and respond to—the concerns and priorities of workers, employers, and other key stakeholders.  The Outreach Core will engage research teams in the R2P process.
  • Dissemination of knowledge, including

    • Educational programs
      • A “capstone” initiative for the Outreach Core is the integration of all that has been learned by Labor Lab researchers and practitioners into an educational effort to enhance the knowledge and skill base of individuals who are concerned about worker health and well-being, especially concerning vulnerable workers. To this end, the Outreach Core will provide the following:
      • Public Lectures and Webinars
        • Presentations open to the public on topics specifically targeted to specific audiences such as healthcare professionals, organizational leaders and managers, unions and advocacy professionals, policymakers, occupational health professionals, workers in traditional and non-traditional employment (including but not limited to gig workers), and the unemployed.
      • Annual Conferences and Workshops
        • An annual conference exploring topics related to the Lab’s theme of the health impacts of emergent working conditions. The first of the conferences, to be held on May 17th-18th, concerns precarity in employment and its consequences. In addition, workshops related to the substance and methods of the Lab’s research and outreach are held when Lab activities warrant focused attention on specific topics. The first of these dealt with measurement issues in assessing the extent of alternative employment arrangements.
      • Certification Program in Total Worker Health®
        • A new certification program for Total Worker Health® professionals adopting a systems orientation to health, safety, and well-being and utilizing the research findings and best practices gleaned from Labor Lab work.
    • Development of guides & tools
      • The Outreach Core will develop and make available to the public guides and tools based on the translation of research to practice in order to assist stakeholders including workers, organizational leaders, unions, worker center professionals, advocates, and healthcare and health-related professionals in creating healthier working conditions and work experience. Examples of planned guides and tools include the following:
        • The Research to Practice (R2P) Roadmap, developed and updated by the Labor and Occupational Health Program
        • Employer guides for implementing specific health-promoting organizational interventions
        • A survey tool for identifying worker health and well-being needs
    • Certificate Program in Total Worker Health®
      • The centerpiece of the CA Labor Lab’s educational programming is the development of a Total Worker Health® certification program. The University of California, Berkeley program will be unique among other certification programs by its breadth of topics, a systems orientation to health, safety, and well-being, connection to related topics and occupational health, and inclusion of curricula on non-traditional and emerging forms of work arrangements.
  • Engagement in mitigation and prevention efforts

    • The CA Labor Lab Policy Forum is designed to foster a dialogue between Lab investigators and policymakers from the Executive, Regulatory, and Legislative Branches of the Federal and State of California governments.  It is directed by Dr. Victor Rubin, formerly VP of Research at PolicyLink, with input from Garen Corbett, a member of the Lab’s External Advisory Committee and the Director of the California Health Benefits Review Program.
Total Worker Health® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Participation by the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces does not imply endorsement by HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.