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Focus Archive

Health and safety research - a very important step to achieving Healthy and Safe workplaces

August 2008

The latest Report from the International Labour Office (ILO) Beyond deaths and injuries: The ILO's role in promoting safe and healthy jobs recognizes the serious consequences of work-related accidents and diseases, which the International Labour Office estimates lead to 2.3 million fatalities per year world-wide and an economic loss of 4 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It also states:

The pace of global socioeconomic development over the past 50 years, together with scientific and technical progress, has brought about an unprecedented volume of research and knowledge concerning risk management in general and the control of public and workplace risks in particular. Moreover, the advent of computer, internet and other electronic communication systems has made this knowledge easier to access globally. Such knowledge has been translated into a massive compendium of international, regional and national regulatory frameworks, as well as technical standards, guidelines, training manuals and practical information covering all the different aspects of occupational safety and health (OSH) for all branches of economic activity.

Yet, despite this formidable expenditure of effort and resources, a plateau seems to have been reached when it comes to achieving decent, safe and healthy working conditions in reality. The latest ILO estimates indicate that the global number of work-related fatal and non-fatal accidents and diseases does not seem to have changed significantly in the past 10 years. This discrepancy between the level of efforts and results has many reasons, many of them brought on by the globalization of the world's economies. A closer look at the statistics shows that, although industrialized countries have seen steady decreases in numbers of occupational accidents and diseases, this is not the case in countries currently experiencing rapid industrialization or those too poor to maintain effective national OSH systems, including proper enforcement of legislation.

Factors influencing research

The need to keep abreast of new and fast changing technologies together with societal concerns about the acceptable level of risk in work activities are the key drivers for new research.

Research is undertaken to help meet each country's business objectives. It plays a key role in:

Research organisations

There are many research organisations worldwide that have integrated science and research programmes which address both generic and specific occupational health and safety issues across the complete spectrum of regulatory responsibilities in their own countries.

The research work to achieve the health and safety performance targets will involve:

Knowing where to look for research results

The outcomes of research projects and efforts are usually well displayed in the various research organisations' websites and newsletters. A selection of research organisations is listed below but look further in and in particular take a free of charge trial of OSH UPDATE that has thousands of research reports indexed in the various databases.
OSH UPDATE is constantly updated. Anyone who has used OSH-ROM which is ceasing publication will find OSH UPDATE a very useful and price friendly alternative.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is the largest research organisation in Australia and one of the world's largest and most diverse scientific research institutions. Work touches just about every aspect of Australian life: everything from the molecules of life to the molecules in space - finding ways to improve our quality of life and economic performance. 6500 staff perform research and development over a broad range of areas of economic and social value including: agriculture, manufacturing, minerals and energy, construction, health and the environment.


Institute for Research in Construction (IRC)

Institute for Research in Construction Fire Risk Management research is assisting Canada's construction industry and concentrates on four areas: Active Fire Protection; Fire-Resistant Construction; Residential & Commercial Buildings; Industrial Buildings.
IRSST Institut de recherche Robert-Sauve en santé et en securite du travail - Occupational Health and Safety Research Institute (IRSST) scientific activities are concentrated in seven research fields: accidents, chemical substances and biological agents, musculoskeletal disorders, noise and vibration, protective equipment, occupational rehabilitation, safety of industrial tools, machines and processes. More than 1 000 research reports are available for free download. The Institute is located in Montreal (QC), Canada. For more information about IRSST subscribe at l'Info IRSST and you will receive a monthly newsletter with the latest information.

European Commission EU official website for information on research, technological development and innovation. Daily news about research and innovation, library of documents relating to R&D policy and practice, information about funding and support for projects as well as interactive services. In addition you can sign-up to receive a monthly newsletter to keep abreast of developments.

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) very informative site which links to other worldwide sites.
Scientific research is the core of FIOH's activities. Research and development work generates new knowledge that can be applied to improve working conditions, to promote workers' health and work ability, to ensure the smooth functioning of working communities, and to enhance well-being.


Institut National de Recerche et de Securite (INRS)

Institut National de Recerche et de Securite INRS is a major research organisation offers training, exhibitions, related sites, consultancy and expertise, events. The Information Services is the International Labour Office Health and Safety National Centre.

International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC)

International Agency for Research in Cancer IARC is a major research organisation into all aspects of cancer, details of activities, research and extensive list of publications.

Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institute fur Arbeitssicherheit (BGIA) site contains various GESTIS databases on hazardous substances and complete reports on up-to-date research topics "BGIA reports", a number of these are in English. They provide results of the German BGs (institutions for statutory accident insurance and prevention). Reports can be downloaded or ordered free of charge via the BGIA's publication database.
Bundessanstalt fur Arbeitsschutz BAuA or Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health FIOSH as it is known in English is the major OSH institute, site covers research results, databases on research, reports and projects. Practical solutions, applications, publications, details about the Notification Unit to the Chemicals Act and European Network Workplace Health Promotion. Partly available in English language.

SINTEF Group is comprised of a number of Institutes and Laboratories such as the Norwegian Fire Research Laboratory working in research in civil and environmental engineering, applied chemistry, materials technology, petroleum, fire etc. Offers publications, seminars and conferences.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work site gives information and links to other European Member States web sites, gives details of legislation, including European Union Directives, research, good practices. Also links to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health, International Labour Office in Switzerland, Norway, Australia, Iceland national centres. Sources of statistical information, surveys and other related information from European Member States and other countries. Also information from Eurostat - the European Statistical Office.

The Council was established in 2001 through a merger of the Swedish Council for Social Research and the Swedish Council for Work Life Research. Its objectives are to promote the accumulation of knowledge in matters relating to working life and the understanding of social conditions and processes through: promotion and support of basic and applied research; identification of important research needs; dialogue, dissemination of information and transfer of knowledge; promotion of cooperation between researchers both nationally and internationally, particularly in EU programmes.
Fire, energy, building and materials technology, chemical analysis from the National testing and Research Institute - SP in Sweden which develops and transfers technology for improving competitiveness and quality in industry and for safety, conservation of resources and a good environment.

The UK Health and Safety Executive containing the science and research website
The UK Health and Safety Executive website to provide information on offshore petroleum safety and environment research programme sponsored by members of the International Committee for Regulatory Authority Research and Development (ICRARD). The website offers easy access to information about safety and environment research projects in member countries, including links to key contacts, research programmes and publication.

The USA National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health web pages provide comprehensive contacts to other related web sites, a compendium of their questionnaires, information on their meeting and conferences, as well as their research work, publications, training services, and their latest activities. This site covers a huge amount of data including information on the organizations responsibilities, from evaluating hazards in the workplace to recommendations to protect workers in the US.
Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has helped to improve the occupational safety and health of millions of workers for more than 50 years. Through laboratory and field-based investigations, the Research Institute seeks to advance scientific, business-relevant knowledge in workplace and highway safety, and work disability. Research findings are shared with the worldwide health and safety community through peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations. Ultimately, these findings are used to develop recommendations, guidelines, and interventions that help reduce risk and control costs. To achieve its mission, the Research Institute comprises four Centres: Center for Physical Ergonomics - studies the causes and mechanisms of occupational injuries with a focus on musculoskeletal disorders. Center for Disability Research - investigates worker disability and ways to achieve safe and sustained return-to-work for injured or disabled workers. Center for Injury Epidemiology - conducts original epidemiological research into risk factors for occupational injury and studies the burden of workplace injury. Center for Behavioral Sciences - studies the impact of behavioral, cognitive, and organizational factors surrounding workplace injuries and highway collision.