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Safety First. Polish technical solutions

December 2011

After 1990, social and economic transformation in Poland required a systemic approach to occupational safety and health (OSH), one that would incorporate results of interdisciplinary research in biology, technology and social sciences. In Poland this challenge has been undertaken by the Central Institute for Labour Protection - National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB). Excellent researchers and scientific infrastructure made it possible to provide significant input prior to Poland's accession to the European Union. The objective was to reduce occupational risk.

Today CIOP continues to provide factual input into new EU regulations in this field (hazardous substances, optical radiation, electromagnetic hazards).

The following article explains. It is from "Praca i Zdrowie" (Work and Health) No. 10, 2011, pp. 28-30 (English version) with the kind permission of the publisher.

Safety First. Polish technical solutions

by Professor Danuta Koradecka, Director of the Central Institute for Labour Protection - National Research Institute, Warsaw, POLAND.

"Improving quality and productivity at work: Community strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work" obliges the governments of the Member States, including Poland, to adopt (in this field) a coherent national strategy that will attain the objective of reducing the incidence of occupational accidents and illnesses by 25%. By carrying out the National Programme "IMPROVEMENT OF SAFETY AND WORKING CONDITIONS" Poland is creating the principles for that strategy. CIOP-PIB is the programme's main contractor and co-ordinator, whereas the scientific agency (NCBiR) of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy supervise it in research and state services respectively.

It should be stressed that the impact of changes in the structure of both the economy and the workforce affects OSH. On the one hand, there are new technologies (e.g. nano- and biotechnology), on the other, the structure of age and work organization is changing (part-time and temporary employment). In the context of the aging workforce, keeping older workers in the labour market makes improving working conditions essential. At the same time, it is necessary to properly prepare young people for work as they are involved in most occupational accidents: over 26% of people injured in occupational accidents are under 30 (Central Statistics Office, 2009).

An increase in employees' expectations, the need to protect them against extremely dangerous situations and significant technical progress have stimulated research aimed at creating smart personal protective equipment (PPE).

Such developments are created as a result of an emerging world-wide trend of designing products synchronized with the users' organism or counteracting the changes in the environment in the form of clothing ensuring the thermal comfort of the user.

Built-in computer software allows it to interact with the human body and predictably react to changes in the external environment. CIOP-PIB has recently developed protective clothing which actively reacts to body temperature by changing its thermal insulation (Silver medal at Brussels Eureka, 2010). Three prototypes of such clothing has been developed - for freezer workers, officers and athletes. This is an example of smart PPE that improves thermal comfort.

Electronics in PPE can also monitor the user's physiological parameters during long-lasting rescue operations and hazards (high temperature, oxygen deficiency, unidentified chemical and biological substances) in particularly dangerous conditions. An example of such clothing is the new generation firefighter's clothing with textronic system of physiological parameters monitoring.


Clothing protecting against cold

Clothing protecting against cold with active thermoregulation system, designed for working in low-grade conditions, fluctuating air temperature and changeable energy expenditure. The thermal insulation of the clothing changes depending on the environmental conditions and user's activity.

The active component in the clothing is the system measuring the undergarment temperature and deciding about turning on or off the 6 heating units, which are an integral part of the wear.

The heating units are efficiently powered by electricity. The control panel can be in an automatic mode, manual mode or on standby. The panel sends the signal wirelessly to the measure-control system beneath the clothing.

Cooperation: CIOP-PIB, ARLEN S.A.

New generation firefighter's clothing

The new generation firefighter's clothing with textronic system of physiological parameters monitoring (including immobility) was designed to be worn during firefighting actions.

The monitoring function is ensured by collecting data of temporary values from every user of the clothing and then sending them through radio channels to the monitoring centre installed in the fire engine. This enables a situation analysis, allowing to make decisions about the necessity and manner of potential evacuation of the firefighter.

The clothing monitors the physiological state of the user, considering the surrounding conditions and heaviness of work.

Cooperation: Lodz Technical University, CIOP-PIB, ARLEN S.A.

In the area of fire prevention, the Institute developed also safe technologies and materials which can be used in mining excavations as well as foam warmed buildings. New polyurethane foams/plastics with reduced flammability and lower combustion emission of toxic fumes have unique physico-chemical properties which can cause a change in approach to building's trade and in warming industry related to the use of ecological products with fire safety characteristics.

Our approach to occupational hazards related to new technologies involves a logical sequence of studies from methods of measuring exposure to its influence at the level of the cell to efficient protection. This research is carried out as a part of two EU projects: NANOSH and NANODEVICE.


New systems of plastic's material

The Institute has developed new systems of plastic's material (including foam plastics) with reduced flammability and toxic smoke release during fire accident. Studies aimed at determining self-extinguishing properties, surface flammability and cone calorimeter were carried out. In the synthesis of the selected plastics classic halogen free fire retardants and nanoparticles were used.

The advantages of applying such product are the reduction of the risk of fire formation in plastic application, and, in case of ignition, avoidance of the hazards caused by toxic combustion products emission.

Simultaneously, parameter features will permit to keep all advantages of polyurethane foams / plastics. Exemplary, smaller coefficient of heat penetration is an additional huge trump of foams (and therefore better isolation) - it permits the depression of different isolating materials, which can lead to reducing thickness of insulation, and also its cost.

Apart from research activities in the area of product and technology development, the Institute profile its activities to advanced software tools and numerical modelling, as well as EMF-related topics (computer modelling of EMF energy deposition in workers operating industrial devices and assessing exposure to medical devices, high voltage power lines, electrical installations or antitheft systems) and modelling of OSH accidents cases.

Virtual environments (VE) are a relatively new type of human-computer interface, in which users perceive and act in 3D world. VE created with computer simulation are used to study several variants of the same workplace, which makes modifications relatively easy. This helps to design workplaces tailored to the needs of people with disabilities and thereby to enable their employment. Computer simulations are also used in reconstructing occupational accidents in VE to determine their causes. They can also be used in workers training to form proper habits without putting them at risk.

According to Machinery Directive, advanced software tools are needed to fulfil necessary demands concerning occupational risk assessment during designing of the machines. For that purpose, a computer program was created (named PRO-M). This world-wide unique programme is useful to designers, ergonomists, manufacturers, as well as to end-users - for checking the quality of machine safety systems.


PRO-M computer programme

Each machine must be designed and manufactured on the basis of risk assessment results. It follows not only from good engineering practice, but also from the obligations concerning the placing on the market of machinery.

PRO-M programme has been developed in order to simplify and formalize the operations of machinery manufacturers.

PRO-M computer programme supports conducting and documenting risk assessment during the machinery design process. It simplifies the requirements of Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, simultaneously producing risk assessment documentation, required by this directive.


Creating such advanced products and technologies would not be possible without broad international co-operation, which is crucial for the Institute's activities. The Institute has been actively cooperating with leading OSH institutions from all over the world, taking part in joint research projects, exchanging of staff and participating in scientific events. Collaboration with key OSH institutes in the EU, the USA, Canada, South Korea and Israel has provided support for developing our research potential. We carry out an on-going international co-operation through European Commission units (ACSH in Luxembourg and EU-OSHA in Bilbao) as well as EC Joint Research Centre - Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (ISPRA).

EU social policy and related activities emphasize the importance of improvement of working and living conditions. We are just in line with this priority. Our experience and potential may contribute to the achievement of this ambitious aim on a European scale and to the creation of European added value in the European Research Area.

Cooperation? - Yes, We Can.

Central Institute for Labour Protection - National Research Institute (est. 1950), is the leading Polish institution in the field of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). Principal activities of the Institute are aimed at conducting research and development works in the field of occupational safety, health and ergonomics, and implementation of the results into practice in order to eliminate or reduce the causes of accidents at work and occupational diseases. Thanks to its multidisciplinary character and in order to carry out these tasks, the Institute employs about 300 staff - highly-qualified specialists. Its laboratories are equipped with modern high-tech apparatus. The Institute is accredited by the Polish Centre for Accreditation with the product certification body, a personnel's competence certification body and management system certification body. CIOP-PIB offers conformity assessment as the EC notified body in the area of directives related to: personal protective equipment, machinery and safety components, noise emission in the environment by equipment for use outdoors.