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Issue 15: December 2000

MAINSTREAM RESEARCH MARKET 2001/02

The next edition of HSE's annual Mainstream Research Market Document will be published on 16 February 2001. It will be available free of charge from HSE's Research Strategy Unit, who will distribute copies of the document within HSE, to other Government departments, Agencies and Research Councils and to around 1600 present and potential contractors.
The document serves to increase general awareness of HSE's research activities and: to show how our research is procured and managed; to set out the present research interests and current and potential future projects; and to invite proposals for research ideas in response to identified broad issues facing HSE through a 'competition of ideas' exercise.
Previous response to the 'competition of ideas' has been good. Twenty one broad issues were featured in the 2000/01 document which resulted in the receipt of 164 proposals from 61 different contractors. Of these, over 20% (36 proposals) were supported.
This year's document, whilst retaining the format of previous years, will form an annex to HSC/E's Science and Innovation (S&I) Strategy - to be published in Spring 2001.
The S&I Strategy itself will be an interim and transitional document. It will describe the new arrangements which are being put in place to ensure that HSC/E's science and technology activities are driven by, and evaluated against the attainment of, high level business objectives and the underpinning health and safety objectives and targets.
Future editions of the Mainstream Research Market document will be structured to reflect HSC/E's revised arrangements for delivering key outcomes through strategic business programmes of work.
During this transitional period and beyond HSE continues to value highly the innovative ideas proposed in response to the broad issues featured in the Mainstream Research Market Document and the opportunity to work with others to the wider benefit of workplace health and safety.

Innovation (S&I) Strategy - to be published in Spring 2001.

WHAT'S NEW?

GASES AND BIOAEROSOLS ON LANDFILL SITES: EXPOSURE OF WORKERS AND SPREAD TO THE ENVIRONMENT

(Contractor: HSL)

Workers handling waste at landfill sites may be exposed to a range of chemical and biological hazards including toxic gases, vapours, dusts and bioaerosols. Studies in other countries have associated respiratory symptoms with waste handling in general, but only limited information exists on exposures and associated health effects from landfill sites. In this study, representative landfill sites receiving household and trade waste will be selected. The exposure of workers to toxic gases and vapours, dusts and bioaerosols will be measured to assess risk and to identify areas or operations where workers will be most at risk. Measurements taken at the perimeter of landfill sites will allow an assessment to be made of the influence of landfill operations on their surroundings. The study and its findings will be placed in context by comparison with other current research on emissions associated with waste disposal and will aim to complement that work.

TEN YEAR FOLLOW UP STUDY OF MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING OF THE LUMBAR SPINE

(Contractor: University of Liverpool)

The mechanisms that cause low back pain (LBP) are not well understood. Heavy physical work is often reported as a causative factor. Previous HSE funded work studied lumbar disc disease using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in male workers from five different occupations (car production, ambulance service, office staff, hospital porters and brewery dreymen). The project included follow up MRI at one year and reporting of LBP history. The relationship between occupation, LBP and MRI appearance remained speculative, partly due to the short duration of the follow up. The opportunity has now arisen to perform MRI on the same group of men as were studied 10 years ago. In conjunction with detailed epidemiological information concerning LBP history, occupation and recreational exposures and sick absence, it is anticipated that this work will enable the identification of features on MR images of the lumbar spine that represent a predisposition to back pain and will establish whether certain jobs put workers at increased risk.

FUME EMISSIONS FROM SPOT WELDING THROUGH ADHESIVES AND SEALANTS

(Contractor: The Welding Institute)

Changes in design detail of motor vehicles have lead to the use of adhesives and sealants which are in place when resistance welding of metal vehicle components takes place. Concerns have been expressed about the composition of fumes arising from this process. The limited existing information available suggests that this fume is a complex mixture possibly containing carcinogens, but in the absence of substantiated information, it is not possible for HSE to reach an informed opinion on COSHH assessments for the fume.

The aim of this project is to collect information on the composition and amount of fume emitted when resistance spot welding through epoxy resin adhesives and polybutadiene sealants is carried out. The work will aim to identify a marker compound in the fume, such that, control of the marker compound within its exposure limit will automatically control the other substances generated in the fume.

 

VENTILATION-CONTROLLED FIRES IN TUNNELS

(Contractor: HSL)

The behaviour of fire in tunnels is still not well understood. In most of the classic experimental studies of fire growth, growth has been limited by the availability of fuel. However, tunnel fires can grow to such a size that their behaviour is controlled by ventilation. The fire in the Channel Tunnel in 1996 provided clear evidence of this. In addition to transport tunnels, ventilation control is likely to characterise major fires in underground workplaces such as mines and new tunnel construction sites.

This work aims to improve the understanding of the behaviour of large fires in tunnels, particularly those close to ventilation control. The work will seek to determine the conditions under which fires attain ventilation control, their characteristics in terms of heat, smoke and combustion product output and their response to changes in ventilation. The work will provide data to validate tunnel fire models, particularly those based on computational fluid dynamics and will provide information on the fire exposure of tunnel fabric and services, thus providing information on the level of protection required for vital systems.

DISTRIBUTED COGNITION MODELS FOR HUMAN FACTORS FAILURES IN OPERATING AND DESIGN PROCESSES

(Contractor: Cranfield University)

The distributed cognition model is an important framework to help understand the way in which human problemsolvers rely on the environment (cues from co-workers, inferences made on the basis of the appearance of artefacts they work with and organisational culture) to accomplish their tasks. Distributed cognition models have the potential to help understand how accidents arise when people operating, installing, maintaining and repairing equipment make the wrong inferences about that equipment. The models also help understand how specialists of different disciplines sometimes fail to influence each other appropriately during the design of equipment. The aim of this project is to use the distributed cognition principle to help designers reason about both human factor failures in the operation of equipment and failures in the process of design. The work will also examine how aspects of the designers' environment, such as safety regulation and safety management systems, influence this distributed cognition.

THE FUTURE HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPLICATIONS OF GLOBAL POSITIONING SATELLITE (GPS) CONTROL AND MACHINE AUTOMATION

(Contractor: Defence Research Agency - Chertsey)

The increasing use of GPS systems, teleoperation and computerised control systems to monitor and control mobile work equipment movement and operation creates both potential safety benefits and new hazards. It is important that HSE can identify the health and safety issues arising from the introduction of these new technologies and predict the unforeseen uses to which they may be put. This project aims to: identify the state of the art of technology applicable to GPS control and machine automation; identify the likely pros and cons when assessing systems using GPS and machine automation; produce a forecast of technology growth and market trends to predict emerging safety issues; identify generic safety considerations and produce guidance for the specification, design and development of current and future mobile systems to improve safety; and produce a safety assessment process to enable current and prospective systems to be evaluated.

HEALTH HAZARDS FROM THE EMISSIONS OF FIREWORKS AND THEATRICAL PYROTECHNICS

(Contractor: HSL)

HSE publishes guidance for firework display operators and organisers on the safe performance of displays. Although many pyrotechnic compositions contain or generate substances known to be hazardous to health, currently there is little information available concerning health hazards to operators and members of the public resulting from exposure to emissions from fireworks and pyrotechnical theatrical effects. This work will identify and quantify (where practicable) the harmful components in the emissions from a wide range of display fireworks and theatrical effects. The levels of exposure to fumes from a range of pyrotechnic articles under practical conditions of use will be assessed for: operators and audiences at shows using theatrical effects; test operators conducting tests in accordance with BS7114 or the developing CEN standard; and professional firework display operators. It is intended that the work will lead to the formulation of guidance for the pyrotechnics industry.

A STUDY ON VARIATION IN HUMAN TOXICODYNAMICS

(Contractor: MRC Institute for Environment and Health)

Differences will exist within an exposed population with respect to both the way in which individuals handle a chemical once it enters the body (toxicokinetics) and the extent to which toxicity is expressed at the target site (toxicodynamics). Current practice in risk assessment is to use an uncertainty or safety factor to allow for these differences within the population, but the factors used could be refined and placed on a sounder scientific basis if more information on human toxicokinetics and toxicodynamic characteristics was available.

This research, part of the Interdepartmental Group on Health Risks from Chemicals (IGHRC) initiative, will critically review the available information on the variation in human toxicodynamic response to chemical exposure. The work will identify any data gaps and areas of research which would need to be addressed to further refine inter individual aspects of toxicodynamic uncertainty.

MAPPING HEALTH HAZARDS AND RISKS ACROSS ASPECTS OF THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS

(Contractor: Institute of Occupational Medicine)

It is acknowledged that information on occupational health in the construction industry is sparse and scattered. Recent legislation such as the Construction, Design and Management Regulations (1994) has primarily focused attention on safety issues in encouraging a more structured approach to risk assessment and the development of a health and safety plan. However, the problems associated with a constantly changing work environment, potential exposure to a wide range of hazards and a relatively itinerant work force have hindered the identification and management of health risks in the construction industry.

This project aims to map health hazards and associated risks for specific activities across the construction process. The work will identify and describe the origin of the associated risks and will examine the range and effectiveness of existing control measures in use and will describe those effective control measures found for specific activities. An appropriate and simple checklist will be developed for the industry for them to use to identify health hazards and risks associated with their activities.

EXAMPLES OF RECENTLY COMPLETED PROJECTS

HEALTH AND SAFETY OF PORTABLE DISPLAY SCREEN EQUIPMENT

(Contractor: System Concepts Ltd)

Portable computers were found to account for 1 in 5 of all computers purchased. From the statistical analysis of the results of a questionnaire survey of computer use, the users of portable and desk top computers were found to have reported similar levels of health problems. User discomfort was correlated with the number of hours per week spent using any computer, with no significant difference between desktop users, portable users and people using a portable at a docking station. Two aspects of portable computer use did appear to be associated with musculoskeletal discomfort - using the equipment in less than ideal locations (in a car, on the train, in a hotel), and having to carry several heavy items with the computer, such as printers, cables, batteries, or bulky papers. The study findings showed that users were aware of a range of risks associated with portable computer use, including the risk of theft or mugging, as well as the risk of musculoskeletal disorders or eyestrain. Users disliked the weight of their portables and many suggested improvements in their design, such as height adjustable screens or touchpad/rollerball or an external mouse in place of a trackpoint (nipple). The researchers concluded that taking frequent breaks (or changes in task activity), and undertaking training relevant to computer work were equally beneficial to both portable and desktop computer users.

PREVALENCE OF OCCUPATIONAL DERMATITIS AMONGST PRINTERS IN THE MIDLANDS

(Contractor: Institute for Environment and Health)

From a study of printing industry workers in Nottinghamshire, the aim of this research was to quantify occupational ill health resulting from dermatitis in the industry and, wherever possible, to identify links between dermatitis and particular processes or activities. Around 2600 members of the Graphical Paper and Media Union (GPMU) were sent a self completion questionnaire. A selected sample of respondents, both those reporting current skin conditions and those who did not, were invited for dermatological examination. For those found to have visible dermatitis, patch testing was carried out by the Consultant Dermatologist. The overall survey response rate was 62%; of these, 1189 respondents were directly involved in the printing industry in tasks such as plate making, correction of litho plates, use of materials containing isocyanates, use of UV cured inks, cleaning of litho rollers and cylinders and handling press room consumables. Of the respondents, 41% reported that they had suffered from a skin complaint at some time with 26% having a current skin problem on the hand. Prevalence was highest in those involved in the printing process, even though 90% wore personal protective equipment such as gloves. A large proportion of those affected reported that work-related substances appeared to aggravate their skin condition. A number of individuals were seen at skin clinics (45 subjects with self-reported dermatitis and 60 control subjects). All self reported cases were confirmed and 26 were diagnosed with a skin complaint that was thought to be occupationally related. Irritant contact dermatitis was confirmed in 20 of these 26 subjects. In the control group (who reported no skin complaints), 21 subjects were found to have mild skin problems, with an occupational association likely in 17 of these. The prevalence of skin problems found in this study is much higher than figures reported by current surveillance schemes, such as EPI-DERM. Prevalence was higher in those working in printing than those involved in pre-press and finishing. Cleaning of printing machinery resulted in the greatest tendency towards skin problems, although using isocyanates was also highlighted.

TO ASSESS THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF LAP STRAPS IN AGRICULTURAL TRACTORS FITTED WITH FULL CABS

(Contractor: Transport Research Laboratory)

Despite the requirement for fitting safety cabs/roll bars to tractors, fatalities still occur as a result of the operator being thrown around inside the cab, or by being thrown out of the cab/off the tractor during overturn. 25 such fatalities over the last 9 years may have been reduced or prevented by seat belts. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require an employer to fit seat restraints to tractors where there is a risk to the operator from being crushed between the machine and the ground. Lap belts or straps are the only logical means of providing this protection. Fitting other restraints, such as a three-point harness, would involve drilling or welding fittings to the cab. This is illegal unless approved by the original manufacturer. The project's aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of lap straps on injury levels sustained by an operator in order to guide the level of enforcement, or to guide selective enforcement of wearing a lap belt, according to the risk of the situation. A tractor overturn model was used to provide a comparative analysis of the likely injuries to a restrained/unrestrained operator in various scenarios. The body regions most likely to be injured were considered to be the head and neck - due to impact with the cab interior, and the lumbar spine for restrained operators. The model was validated by comparison with data from tractor overturn tests using a test dummy to simulate the operator. The test dummy was thrown around the cab far more if unbelted, indicating that an unbelted operator had a greater chance of being ejected from the cab during rollover should a door burst open or a window break. The modelling results showed that head impacts were less severe for a belted dummy, indicating reduced head injuries for a belted operator. The modelling data also revealed that for the neck, the forces and moments recorded were higher for the unbelted dummy suggesting reduced neck injuries for a belted operator. For the lumbar spine, the modelling results indicated that the forces and moments measured were higher for the unbelted dummy with the exception of axial tensions (which were greater for the belted dummy in all but one of the test measurements), indicating a possibility of increased lumbar spine injury for belted operators. The results for the lumbar spine must be considered in the context of the substantially reduced injury risk to other body regions through wearing a belt or lap strap.

AN EVALUATION OF THE SAFETY INFORMATION CENTRE APPROACH IN PROVIDING HEALTH AND SAFETY ADVICE TO SMALL FIRMS

(Contractor: CHaRM, Loughborough University)

This study investigated the effectiveness of an approach in use at two RoSPA-affiliated Safety Information Centres, designed to help small businesses set up and operate a simple health and safety management system. The investigation is based on assessments performed during follow up visits to 24 companies having previously received help from one of the Centres. It was found that the approach was effective in the majority of cases in helping business managers to produce adequate risk assessments and policy statements and to introduce an effective health and safety management system into the workplace. Many of the necessary arrangements were already in place prior to intervention by the Centre, but intervention was effective in bringing these diverse arrangements together and developing them into a coherent system. The approach developed the necessary knowledge and confidence in business managers to allow them to maintain and improve arrangements.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Series No. Contract Research Report/Offshore Technology Report: Title
CRR 282 An investigation of factors affecting the performance of power-assisted full- facepiece respirators in use
CRR 286 Organisational interventions for stress: a risk management approach
CRR 287 Safety aspects of the effects of hydrogen sulphide concentrations in natural gas: further work
CRR 288 Quantified risk assessment of aircraft fuelling operations
CRR 289 Stability characteristics of 3 and 4 wheeled vehicles
CRR 290 Managing post incident reactions in the police service
CRR 291 Examples of effective workforce involvement in health and safety in the chemical industry
CRR 292 Effects of environmental factors on the leaching rates of biocides from antifouling coatings
CRR 293 A comparison of accident experience with Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) methodology
CRR 294 Report on a study of international pipeline accidents
CRR 295 Policy, risk and science: securing and using scientific advice
CRR 296 Industrial use of safety related expert systems
CRR 297 Application of HELA circular 67/1 & development of indicative hazard/risk scores for generic premises
CRR 298 Efficacy of water spray protection against butane jet fires impinging on LPG storage tanks
CRR 299 Studies into the 2-4 hour shift phenomenon
CRR 300 Pilot study: the effects of cannabis-based medicines on cognitive performance
CRR 301 Assessment of a continuous miner 'wet head' system
CRR 302 The measurement of the induction of aneuploidy by chemicals
CRR 303 Flue performance of domestic gas burning appliances
CRR 304 Health and safety of portable display screen equipment
CRR 305 Sheeting and unsheeting of non-tipper lorries
CRR 306 Health and safety in the agricultural engineering design process
CRR 307 The prevalence of occupational dermatitis amongst printers in the Midlands
CRR 308 Evaluation of the safety information approach in providing health and safety advice to small firms
CRR 309 Development of a health and safety performance measurement tool
CRR 310 The effectiveness of lap straps as seat restraints on tractors in the event of overturning
CRR 311 The scale of occupational stress: further analysis of the impact of demographic factors and type of job
CRR 312 Evaluation of alternative training provision for Local Authority health and safety enforcement officers
CRR 313 Construction health and safety for the new millennium
OTN 2000 016 Finite Element Analysis of Rope Sockets
OTN 2000 027 Detailed Description of the Five SCMM Levels
OTN 2000 036 Structural Monitoring and Acoustic Methods
OTN 2000 037 Testing of Choke Valves in Erosive Service
OTN 2000 038 Tubular Joints Design Guide (Volume 1)
OTN 2000 042 Large Scale Experiments to Study Jet Fires of Crude Oil/Gas water Mixtures
OTN 2000 046 Chain Hoist/Lever Pull failures
OTN 2000 047 Extreme Wave Study for Draupner Platform
OTO 2000 003 Offshore Behaviour Modification and Safety Improvements Programme - A Literature Review
OTO 2000 070 Hydrocarbon Release - Dry Gas Seal Integrity Survey Report
OTO 2000 073 Development of Statistical Models for Data Analysis
OTO 2000 085 Multivariate Analysis of Hydrocarbon Releases Data
OTO 2000 094 Validation of Wave Response Analysis for Jack-Up Rigs
OTO 2000 111 Offshore Injury, Ill Health and Incident Statistics 1999/2000

CRR and OT Reports are being made available for free download at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/index.htm The most recent reports may not be uploaded yet. HSE staff may obtain copies via their FOU reps. Those outside HSE may purchase copies from HSE Books.

Added to the HSE website 8 February 2001

Updated 2011-08-18