Issue 3: January 1998
MAINSTREAM RESEARCH MARKET DOCUMENT 1998/99
The Mainstream Research Market Document is produced annually by HSE's Research Strategy Unit. The document serves to increase general awareness of HSE's research activities and to inform HSE's wide range of current and potential contractors of our research interests, forward priorities and of how HSE identifies and meets its research needs.
HSE has specific targets to meet for the proportion of research spend on projects let through competition and for newly commissioned research projects involving collaboration (especially with industrial partners). A key aim of this year's edition of the document is to contribute to meeting those targets.
The Mainstream Research Programme has four Portfolio Research Groups (PRGs), each of which has a number of member Subject Research Groups (SRGs). The Mainstream Research Market document describes HSE's research in the context of its SRGs. For each SRG: the areas of interest and scope; the current research activities; and the future research priorities are described. Contractors will be invited to express interest in particular areas.
In addition to the future research priorities, a number of 'broad ideas' for research have been identified. Contractors will be invited to submit research proposals in response to this 'competition for ideas'. The proposals will then be assessed to find the most suitable approach and relevant research to meet HSE's requirements. Contractors will be required to submit their proposals within a specified period.
The document is currently being compiled from the various SRG submissions and it is envisaged that the document will be published in early February 1998 and will be available from RSU as a free publication.
THE USE OF SEATING TO CONTROL EXPOSURES TO WHOLE-BODY VIBRATION
(Contractor: University of Southampton)
Many people are occupationally exposed to whole-body vibration at levels where international concensus (ISO2631-1) suggests there is a hazard to health. The proposed European Physical Agents Directive contains criteria to address whole body vibration which are consistent with ISO methodology . Conventional seats (metal sprung cushions) are adequate for on-road driving but can amplify vibrations caused by poor surfaces and off-road driving. Vehicles intended for use on poor surfaces are often fitted with suspension seats which reduce the vibration transmitted to occupants. This research intends to investigate the potential to reduce whole-body vibration exposure by improved choice of seat and to determine the least level of exposure which can be reasonably achieved on a range of work vehicles and equipment.
OCCUPATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE OF BORNA DISEASE
Borna Disease is an infectious neurological disease caused by Borna Disease Virus (BDV). The disease occurs sporadically in horses and sheep and is endemic in regions of Germany and Switzerland. The role of BDV in psychiatric illness is of much interest and concern and studies have shown increased levels of BDV antibodies occurring in neuropsychiatric patients. It is thought that individuals occupationally exposed to domestic animals might be at greater risk of exposure to BDV than the general population. This study aims to establish the prevalence and incidence of Borna Disease in the UK farming community. The prevalence of antibodies to BDV will be measured in two separate cohorts of UK farmworkers (n=900) and will then be compared to the antibody prevalence in a group of ambulance and police workers (n=350). The sources of exposure leading to acquisition of BDV antibodies will be investigated and the severity and spectrum of symptoms associated with the presence and acquisition of antibodies will be assessed.
FIELD EFFECTIVENESS OF PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
(Contractor: IOM)HSE is the Regulatory Authority with responsibility for risk assessments of non- agricultural pesticide products. The main route of exposure to these products is via the skin. The protection afforded by normal workwear and PPE is a major element in dictating the degree of exposure to these pesticides. Existing evidence, relating to the potential for differing forms of protective clothing to reduce the level of exposure to individuals, is conflicting. Because of this, it is proposed that this project will build on previous work, providing realistic estimates of the protection afforded by protective clothing for users of non-agricultural pesticides. It is intended that the results of the study will be used to feed into a number of areas of HSE's work on occupational health issues and will inform decision making.
METHODOLOGY FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT
(Contractor: WS Atkins)
HSE published a model for health and safety management in HSG65, which has been widely accepted and adopted. Additionally, a methodology suitable for larger organisations and the results of several case studies on accident costs were published in HSG96.
In order to further develop this work, HSE, through this recently commissioned project, intends to investigate the potential for systematic analysis of accident costs and the possibility of attributing such costs to specific management failures.
The information collected from this research project will be used to
provide guidance to companies, allowing them to target those management areas requiring
improvement, and so better focus remedial expenditure.
REDUCING HANDLING INJURIES IN THE FOOD AND DRINK INDUSTRY
(Contractor: Systems Concepts Ltd)
HSE's Food National Interest Group has identified that within the food and drink industry, 65% of over-three-day absence injuries are caused by manual handling. Work-related upper limb disorders and low backache were found to be two of the four main causes of occupational ill-health. This project intends to identify cases where companies have successfully remedied poor manual handling situations so that the experience gained can be disseminated within the industry. Through a programme of visits to premises - with serious manual handling risks which have been addressed - a feasibility study to determine the quality of case study material will be carried out. The potential for dissemination of this information within the food and drinks industry will then be examined.
DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION OF AIDS FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF UPPER
(Contractor: University of Aberdeen) Previous work completed as a feasibility study led to the development of a draft form of an aid to help General Practiotioners (GPs) in their initial diagnostic assessment of work related Upper Limb Disorders (ULDs). Diagnostic flowcharts and checklists were also developed and occupational physicians indicated that these would be of value in obtaining a clearer diagnosis and management of work-related causal factors.
Following on from the initial work, this current research project
intends to assess the usability of the aids through evaluation by occupational physicians
and GPs. Once their perception of the effectiveness of the aids has been assessed, further
development and enhancement of the prototype diagnostic aid, flowcharts and checklists may
be carried out prior to them being taken forward to publication.
DISLODGEABLE RESIDUES FROM SURFACES TREATED WITH PESTICIDES
There are limited data available concerning the potential for exposure to pesticides arising from incidental contact with pesticide-treated surfaces (secondary exposure). Risk assessments generally rely upon modelled estimates of exposure and important variables to consider include the nature of the treated surface, type of product and the method of transfer to the skin.
This project intends to provide realistic data on the extent of
secondary dermal exposure arising as a result of contact with pesticide-treated surfaces.
Non-agricultural pesticides, used in human health risk assessments (performed as part of
the approval process under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986) will be used in the
INVESTIGATION OF LARGE SIZE RESIN SOCKETED WIRE ROPE TERMINATIONS
There have been a number of recent incidents involving failure of resin socketed wire rope terminations on cables which were being used for mooring offshore vessels.
This project is intended to identify the main parameters that affect
the integrity of resin socketed mooring ropes by studying a range of possible termination
defects and the effects of a saline environment on mooring ropes. Guidance for inspection
and acceptance/discard criteria for the range of termination defects and rope size related
problems will be developed so that Inspectors can recognise good and bad practice for
safety critical functions such as manned diving, crane pendants, moorings, etc.
VideoTraining films will also be produced as a teaching aid in recognising good and bad
practice for terminating wire ropes.
THE BEHAVIOURAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES PORTFOLIO RESEARCH GROUP
The Behavioural and Social Sciences Portfolio Research Group (BSSPRG) was established as part of HSE's new research management structure in 1996. It was preceded by the Behavioural and Social Science Subject Research Group (BSSSRG) which held its first meeting in September 1992. The BSSSRG was set up to facilitate the co-ordination of behavioural and social science (including human factors) research across HSE. The new Portfolio Research Group has added a strategic tier to the behavioural and social science research structure.
Figure 1: Management structure for HSE's research programme
The present structure consists of the PRG with a single SRG below it. This SRG, however, oversees five topic sub-groups each of which is co-ordinated by a different member of the SRG. The structure is illustrated in Figure 1.
This is a sensible arrangement given the inevitable overlap between the five topics and particularly avoids the same people having to attend several meetings.
The chair of the BSSPRG is Dr Paul Oldershaw, Head of Health Sciences Division, and the chair of the BSSSRG is Dr Ron McCaig, Head of the Human Factors Unit. The BSSPRG has quite a wide remit since the range of topics which come under the label 'behavioural and social sciences' is broad, and includes for example: human factors; economics; anthropology; sociology; social psychology; organisational behaviour and occupational psychology; political science; communication and media studies; business and management; social and economic history; and medical sociology. Of course, our interest lies in the way research within (and across) these disciplines can help HSE to achieve its mission; the aim is both to gain an understanding and also to identify knowledge and techniques from the behavioural and social science area which can be applied to the practical solution of problems.
To this end, the PRG has identified a set of objectives (set out below) which form part of a ROAMEF statement.
The BSSPRG objectives are to gain a better understanding of:
the attitudes of workers and the public to health and safety issues, including the factors which influence the perception and tolerability of risks arising from work activities; the changing structure of society and of the economically active population and the costs which will be accepted in return for the benefits of control of risks;the ways in which different organisational structures, management methods and individual human performance characteristics influence occupational health and safety; the influence of the physical and psychosocial work environment on occupational safety; the psychosocial factors which are important in the aetiology of work related illness; the contribution of human behaviour to the onset and progression of occupational ill-health.
The main role of the BSSPRG is to provide a strategic overview and lead on research falling within its areas of interest. This is achieved through the participation of representatives from most of HSE's Directorates and Divisions and through close liaison with other interested groups. For example, the Nuclear Safety Division is represented on the PRG and this provides a valuable link between the Mainstream and Nuclear Research Programmes and a link through to the Health and Safety Commission's Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee (NuSAC, formerly ACSNI). Offshore Safety Division (OSD) has also provided a valuable contribution to the behavioural and social science and human factors groups, and we now look forward to the Offshore Research Programme being wholly integrated into the Mainstream Research Programme in 1998/99. The BSSPRG also liaises closely with the Health PRG (HPRG, which was detailed in Issue 2 of this newsletter). These two PRGs share an interest particularly in relation to psychosocial factors and ill-health. In principle, research into general issues on this topic should be referred to the BSSSRG and that concerned with specific issues should go to the HPRG's Psychosocial Issues SRG (PISRG). In practice, much of the research which meets the BSSPRG's objectives covered by the fifth topic sub-group (Figure 1) has gone through the PISRG. However, provided that the research which HSE requires is undertaken, no-one is likely to make a fuss about which SRG is asked to consider research proposals (in some cases it can be appropriate to consult both SRGs).
The BSSSRG's five topic sub-groups address a wide range of research. Projects within this PRG's portfolio include: evaluations of the impact of regulations and HSE guidance; review of new health & safety enforcement procedures; telephone reporting of RIDDOR incidents; the public perception of risks associated with major hazard sites; the development of a safety culture assessment methodology; health & safety standards in small versus large firms; accident costs, ill-health and preventative measures; company re-organisation/delayering and health & safety management; a method for assessing the risks arising from fatigue; review of shiftwork interventions; case studies of human factors in industrial safety; human factors at user-worked level crossings; human factors of on-farm accidents; and individual differences and liability to human failures. Many parts of HSE are involved in managing these projects. Major players include the Chemical and Hazardous Installations Division (CHID), the Operations Unit, Health Directorate, Railways Inspectorate and OSD.
A major task for the BSSPRG has been to prepare a strategy, and good progress has been made in this respect. In November 1997 the first edition of the 'Forward Look' was agreed. This working paper sets out the current strategy and gives details of the areas of interest including current priority research questions and contacts. The document is aimed at an internal audience with a view to promoting a shared understanding of the way forward in behavioural and social sciences research. It is interesting to note that the Health and Safety Commission commented on the importance of this area of work and the relatively small amount of research which HSE has so far commissioned. There is clearly room for growth, although the available resources may limit what can be achieved in the short-term. A large-scale 'field review' has also been undertaken. The aim was to have an overview of who is doing what and where, and literature reviews covering particular topic areas. This substantial document is currently being finalised and should provide a useful reference tool for future planning. The BSSSRG has organised several presentations from external speakers on topics as diverse as warning labels, the National Child Development Study, and sleep disorders.
As part of its strategic role the BSSPRG is also concerned with maintaining an overview of the whole research portfolio, including monitoring the overall spend, so that significant gaps can be identified and a balance achieved across the portfolio. This has meant compiling a list of all relevant research projects funded by HSE. An important part of the monitoring and evaluation process will be portfolio evaluation, and the PRG has put forward its first group of projects for this purpose. The challenge now for the BSSPRG is to develop its portfolio so that the potential offered by these areas of science can be fully utilised by HSE in achieving its mission. The next step towards this is a seminar planned for the end of February which will bring together an invited group of HSE people to consider key topics and the way to take them forward.
DETAILS OF COMPLETED PROJECTS
A STANDARDISED LEACHING RATE MEASUREMENT METHOD FOR ANTI-FOULING
(Contractor: University of Plymouth)
Anti-fouling paints containing tin and copper (as biocides) are used to treat the sub-marine surfaces of ships to prevent the growth of marine organisms on those surfaces. The leaching of metals from such paints has the potential to damage the marine environment. HSE, as the regulatory authority for non-agricultural pesticides (which include anti-fouling paints) required a standardised method for determining the leaching rate of these paints. This could then be used to determine the loading of biocide into the environment during the lifetime of the paint.
A method for determining copper and tin in sea water was developed
and the factors affecting the leaching rate of these metals in different anti-fouling
paints was investigated. A metal cylinder, painted with anti-fouling paint was rotated at
approximately 60 rpm in the seawater. The leaching rate experiments were based on an ASTM
(American Society of Testing and Measurement) method which stated that the seawater should
be between 30-35% salinity, between pH 7.8-8.4 and at 23-270C. Results from the study
showed that the leach rate was dependant on pH. As the pH was increased from pH 7.8 to
8.2, the copper leach rate increased by between 100-200%, whilst the tin leach rate
decreased by a similar amount. Increasing salinity from 30 to 35% increased the leach rate
of both tin and copper by 50-100%. A temperature increase of 30C caused a 10-20% increase
in leaching of both metals. The method of paint application, and cylinder rotation and
positioning were found to have no effect on the leach rate.
CONVEYOR MANRIDING DETECTION/PROTECTION SYSTEM
(Contractor: Davis Derby Ltd.)
In a number of mines in the UK, coal conveyors feed directly into coal crushers. Miners ride on the conveyor as a means of getting to and from the coal face. Following a double fatality which resulted from this practice, HSE and British Coal funded research to develop a personnel detection system to be used in conjunction with the conveyors. Detection of persons riding on the conveyor would cause the conveyor to stop, preventing them from entering the coal crusher. A prototype system was developed, but this failed to provide complete detection in all circumstances. An additional study, funded by HSE, was commissioned. It sought to enhance the detection system, to provide 100% detection efficiency. Following re-design and resiting of the detection tag on the miners' clothing and reconfiguration of the detector's antenna, a series of underground trials provided conclusive evidence that the detection system was 100% effective.
EFFECTS OF BLASTS ON BUILDINGS AND THEIR OCCUPANTS
(Contractor: WS Atkins)
Estimates of the number of possible fatalities among the occupants of buildings which are subjected to explosion, are a key aspect of risk assessment when demonstrating safety at hazardous installations which handle flammable and explosive substances. They are also important in HSE's role in advising Local Planning Authorities on granting planning consent for the developments in the vicinity of such installations. Risks to occupants arise from either debris generated by the blast load or partial/total collapse of the load bearing structure. This research has assessed the structural loads arising from a vapour cloud explosion and the response of the structure to such loads. The research has derived methods for predicting debris generation and a model has been produced which predicts the structure's collapse sequence. Glazing, debris and collapse hazards have been assessed and the collapse sequence has been used to derive the occupant fatality probability for people in the buildings.
DETAILS OF COMPLETED PROJECTS RISK ASSESSMENT CASE STUDIES
(Contractor: Loughborough University)
HSE published the leaflet 'Controlling the risks in the workplace' in January 1994. It was targeted at firms in the commercial, service and light industrial sectors and was produced to help employers and self-employed people to assess risks in the workplace. It was written to appeal, in particular, to small firms as it was recognised that they seemed to have difficulties understanding the concepts and language of risk assessment.
To complement 'Controlling the risks in the workplace', HSE's Risk Assessment Policy Unit (RAPU) thought that it would also be helpful to produce a series of risk assessment case studies of typical small firms, illustrating what was involved in practice in carrying out a risk assessment. The case studies would follow the '5 Steps' framework and show what a risk assessment involved, what resources were required, and so on. RAPU considered that the research required contractors with a general interest in health and safety who could bring an analytical approach to the work, rather than risk assessment/technical specialists. The contract was eventually awarded to the Centre for Hazard and Risk Management (CHARM) at the University of Loughborough.
CHARM's methodology consisted of four stages: selection of appropriate small firms; development of a strategy to achieve all the required outcomes; carrying out risk assessments; and preparation of the results in guidance format. Twelve assessment were eventually carried out covering the office, services, light industrial, agricultural, construction and peripatetic sectors.
The project ran reasonably smoothly though the task proved more
difficult than we had anticipated. Perhaps the main difficulty experienced by the
researchers was articulating the reasons behind judgements made during the course of the
assessments - which was necessary to achieve the analytical approach RAPU was looking for.
Nevertheless, following consultation, we aim to issue the case studies when the '5
Steps to Risk Assessment' leaflet is re-launched, which is due to take place towards
the end of the UK Presidency, midway through 1998.
RESEARCH ON EXPERT JUDGEMENT
(Contractor: AEA Technology Ltd.)
Many issues that arise in Health & Safety regulation require the exercise of expert judgement. Such judgement is informed by data and information derived from research, and from other scientific and technical evidence, concerning hazards and risks. It is often the case, however, that experts draw different conclusions from the same base of data and information. The final judgement also draws substantially on knowledge and understanding derived from experience and awareness of good practice. In addition to the issue of the experts' own treatment of uncertainty, there is the question of how this expert input is aggregated into a composite decision, whether as a single course of action or as a formally presented range of options. There is public interest in the ways in which these issues are dealt with, and in the factors influencing individual and group judgement. The same problem occurs in many other fields where differences in expert judgements can arise. An exploratory study has been carried out to identify typical practice in a range of case studies and to make some initial observations. A copy of the report is now available. Further work is planned and expressions of interest are invited.
RESEARCH ON EXPERT JUDGEMENT
(Contractor: AEA Technology Ltd.)
Many issues that arise in Health & Safety regulation require the exercise of expert judgement. Such judgement is informed by data and information derived from research, and from other scientific technical evidence, concerning hazards and risks. It is often the case, however, that experts draw different conclusions from the same base of data and information. The final judgement also draws substantially on knowledge and understanding derived from experience and awareness of good practice. In addition to the issue of the experts' own treatment of uncertainty, there is the question of how this expert input is aggregated into a composite decision, whether as a single course of action or as a formally presented range of options. There is public interest in the ways in which these issues are dealt with, and in the factors influencing individual and group judgement. The same problem occurs in many other fields where differences in expert judgements can arise. An exploratory study has been carried out to identify typical practice in a range of case studies and to make some initial observations. A copy of the report is now available. Further work is planned and expressions of interest are invited.
Contract Research Reports
All these titles are available as priced publications from HSE Books
Date added internet 06/03/98