Research into OSH is Altering All Our Lives
Sheila Pantry, OBE
For years, various research institutions in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere in the world have been delving into all aspects of working life. The results, often after years of painstaking work, alters how workplaces are organised, and in some extreme cases contributes to the banning of products, substances and even machinery. Legislation is constantly altering, largely as a result of research, witness for example how occupational exposure limits have altered over the years; how substances like asbestos are banned in some countries; how the research into smoking has brought about an awareness of the long term ill-health effects.
Research into occupational safety and health is an essential feature of the budgets which must be assigned by countries to help in the long term battle against problems brought about by the working environment.
Recent research in the UK covers a wide range of subjects, as can be seen from some of the results reported:
- Marine incidents in ports and harbours in Great Britain
- An investigation of the relative risks from the road transport of blasting explosives in maximum size loads of 5te and 16te.
- Developing proposals on how to work with intermediaries.
- An assessment of employee assistance and workplace counselling programmes in British organisations.
- The role of regional health and safety representatives in agriculture : an evaluation of a trade union initiative on roving safety representatives in agriculture.
- Risk to the public at unsupervised stations.
- UK information network to support the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work
- Vehicle driver behaviour at level crossings
- Thermal radiation from vented dust explosions.
- The lifting and carrying of sacks on the shoulder : a laboratory study of psychophysical acceptable loads.
- A study of occupational dermatitis in further education training hairdressing establishments in Scotland
Where research involves people, quite often it highlights that few workers have been given adequate information, instruction and training. Limitations in knowledge of relevant health and safety legislation are also evident in the results.
In the USA the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is to fund new research proposals of high quality this year to prevent job-related injuries and illnesses. The topics NIOSH will give special consideration to projects in agriculture, construction, the service industry (especially health care), and mining. Others are:
- Fertility and pregnancy abnormalities associated with occupational exposures.
- Occupational hearing loss: prevention and intervention, including noise control.
- Methodologies for assessing exposures to hazardous biological, chemical, and physical agents, including assessment of complex mixtures.
- Methodologies for injury and illness surveillance in the workplace.
- The ageing workforce as a special population at risk of job-related injuries and illnesses.
- Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Issues in the organization of work relating to demanding work schedules, sleep disorders
Another example is the Quebec Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute (IRSST) Canada which has just announced eleven new research projects, including, for example,
- Rehabilitation of workers having suffered back injuries
- Induced expectoration as a more sensitive non-invasive method for the laboratory diagnoses of occupational asthma
- Research on protective equipment used by domestic waste collectors
- Development and evaluation of a practical method for the measurement of carbon monoxide levels in diesel exhaust in the mining sector
If you wish to keep up with OSH research activities, then keep looking at Health and Safety World web site, which links you from the Country Index first to the various countries, and then to institutes listed. References to research can be found in the very extensive OSH-ROM CD-ROM which contains six databases, including the UK Health and Safety Executive's Information Services HSELINE database, the US NIOSH database NIOSHTIC, the International Labour Office CISDOC database, RILOSH from Ryerson Technical University Information Services in Canada. Fire Worldwide is a premier collection of fire and fire research databases.
Full text of research reports can be found in OSH-CD and also FIRE-CD.
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