Issue 2: September 1997


The Cabinet Office Publication 'Intellectual Property Rights in the Public Sector Research Base' (HMSO 1992) recommended that Government Departments should publish an intellectual property exploitation plan. Also, the 1993 Government White Paper on Science, Engineering and Technology, 'Realising our Potential', set out the requirement for Government Departments to report the position regarding management of intellectual property rights (IPR), in the context of promoting commercial exploitation of research results, to the Office of Science and Technology (OST).

HSE's Research Strategy Committee has considered a detailed discussion paper on all aspects of intellectual property (IP). It was agreed that, in principle, a uniform policy throughout HSE should be adopted, with retention by HSE of IPR. However, in order to retain some degree of flexibility to select the best provider, a set of criteria has been developed against which a decision to retain or surrender the IPR can be made in certain specified circumstances.

HSE's ability to exploit information arising from its research is affected by its IPR policy. IPR policy is equally important where exploitation is best done through commercial channels. Where HSE has commissioned research with an output which is best put to the market by a commercial company, ownership of IPR gives HSE the power to control exploitation through choosing the most appropriate companies, ensuring that the product meets essential performance criteria and that HSE gets a return on its investment. Where commercial exploitation is not involved, ownership of the IPR gives HSE control over publication and the right to use the material freely eg in commissioning further research.

HSE's IP statement and exploitation plan is to be published in Autumn 1997. The document will be a DIAS publication. Copies will be circulated widely by RSU, both within HSE and externally. Diagram taken from a Patent Application.


Effects on infants of intakes of radioactivity by mothers

(Contractor: NRPB)

The Euratom Directive was adopted in 1996 and it established safety standards for the protection of workers and the public from the dangers of ionising radiation. The Directive also had requirements relating to the protection of unborn children and also for the child of a nursing mother. This project intends to use computer modelling to develop a range of exposure scenarios that might give rise to intakes of radionucleotides by the mother and, to identify the levels of intake of radioactive substances at work, which would pose a significant risk to an embryo, foetus or nursing infant. The data will then be used to provide guidance for employers about what levels of exposure to internal radiation represent a significant risk to the offspring of pregnant and nursing mothers who are working with ionising radiation.

Fire and explosion hazards from pyrotechnics and propellants.

(Contractor: HSL)

CHID identified the need to gain a better understanding of pyrotechnic and propellant detonation during manufacture and in intermediate industrial storage.

This newly commissioned research project intends to examine pyrotechnic and propellant substances to assess the effect of self and imposed confinement on their detonability. The TNT equivalence of their detonation will be quantified; the effect of packaging/containment on their potential to detonate will be assessed; the blast and thermal radiation from pyrotechnic articles under conditions of self confinement and when packaged/contained will be measured; and the effects of ignition of a single article when stored with others in bulk in metal bins will also be studied.

The outputs from this work will be used to strengthen the technical basis from which advice and guidance to the industry is given and will also provide an improved technical background for assessing licence applications for pyrotechnic and propellant production facilities.

A method for assessing the risks arising from fatigue

(Contractor: DERA)

Previous work funded by HSE has developed a Fatigue Index, a prototype method of assessing the risks arising from fatigue. This was developed as guidance on risk assessment in support of the Approved Code of Practice on the hours of work of staff undertaking safety critical work on the railways.

This research project intends to use the index and will assess its validity in the wider industrial context by applying it to a range of real life work patterns, in a variety of industrial settings. The research will also identify the scope for refining or extending the index.

The effects of lifting and suspending from rockbolts

(Contractor: Rock Mechanics Technology Ltd)

Through a short programme of field measurements and computer modelling, this research intends to investigate the uncertainties which surround the use of lifting bolts, currently used for the lifting and suspension of loads (exceeding 1 tonne) in bolted roadways of UK mines.

The study will investigate the effect of oscillating loads and roof movement on the bolts and will look at how bolts and their imposed loads effect the roof strata and roof behaviour. The study findings will be used to develop a risk assessment tool.

Details of completed projects industry's perception of Occupational exposure Limits (OELs)

(Contractor: Research International Ltd)

Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) are used in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994 (COSHH), to determine the adequacy of control by inhalation. HSE recognised that some larger companies were aware of the role of OELs, but there was no hard evidence as to how small companies perceived and used them. A study has recently been undertaken to look at industry's understanding of OELs; the effectiveness of HSE in communicating risk assessment and risk reduction measures; and the extent to which OELs are useful to, and influence, industry in controlling exposure levels.

The study involved 1000 interviews within a random cross-section of firms using chemicals. A further 150 safety representatives were also interviewed in order to obtain an employee perspective on the issue. The interviews covered basic information on the chemicals used, whether risk assessment procedures were in place, the risk reduction measures used, the level of awareness to COSHH and OELs, and their role in influencing the choice of risk reduction measure. Results showed that the majority of firms have carried out some assessment of risk and have some risk control measures in place. The understanding of OELs was very variable, indicating that they have limited direct influence on the behaviour of small firms.

An improved method for the determination of coal tar pitch volatiles in air

(Contractor: HSL)

Workplace exposure to coal tar pitch volatiles (CTPV) is currently assessed by measuring the cyclohexane soluble matter that is extracted from inhalable particulate, collected on filters, as described in MDHS 68. The current method is simple. However, unacceptable variability is introduced into the method due to the small mass changes involved and the difficulty in accurately weighing the filters before and after the cyclohexane extraction.

This study was set up to review the procedure set out in MDHS 68 and to establish an analytical method with greater sensitivity and accuracy than that described.

The outcome of the study has resulted in the rejection of the current analytical procedure for measuring CTPV. Other methods, such as UV analysis and evaporative light scattering detection were also evaluated and rejected.

The recommended procedure which has been proposed as a result of this study involves measurement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the inhalable particulate. It is suggested that either pyrene, as a marker, or 11 PAHs, chosen for their carcinogenicity, should be quantified as an indication of CTPV exposure.

Faulty date change software in safety related control systems

(Contractor: Trevarth Consulting)

This study provides a summary of on-going Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) initiatives, which are relevant to the industrial field, to counter problems expected to arise throughout UK industry and commerce from the 'millennium bug', also known as the Year 2000 problem or the Century Date Change problem.

This problem has arisen due to the past practice of hardware, software and system developers using a two-digit year date (ie implied century) to save storage space and ease data input. The study report details the range of DTI initiatives and activities which are currently ongoing to address this problem, and which are relevant to the industrial field. Contact names and addresses are provided.

The Health Portfolio Research Group

The Health Portfolio Research Group (HPRG) is probably the longest established of the four Portfolio Groups.

Although its first meeting was as recently as January 1996 the committee had met for the previous three years as the Committee of Chairs of Occupational Health Subject Research Groups.

Health research was the first area of the HSE's research programme to have formal committees of technical and scientific experts from across HSE. The Committee's main role was to steer and co-ordinate the resulting research portfolio and address the objectives identified by the recently published Health Risk Reviews. It also acted as a forum for the exchange of views on research issues and on the broad balance of the health research portfolio.

The HPRG objectives are to:

Today the HPRG is chaired by Dr Peter Graham, Director of Health Directorate. Its remit is slightly broader in subject matter, including the Ionising Radiation and Hyperbaric SRGs and it challenges as well as co-ordinates the activities of its associated committees.

Eight Subject Research Groups (SRGs) make up the health portfolio (see management structure) meeting twice a year. Their interests range from nasty bugs to crumbling bones, from pesticides to "recreational" drugs, from measuring aerosols in very low wind speeds to measuring vibrations in tractor cabs, from back pain to leukaemia.

There are new areas such as virtual reality systems and post traumatic stress disorder and old areas like asbestos and fume cupboards.

It is indeed a huge field and tragically one where the hazards and risks may not be obvious to the victims (or their managers) until it is too late.

Consequently, some of the portfolio is taken up with epidemiological surveys to try and spot where the problems might be and get a handle on their size. Two of largest, covering respiratory disease and skin disease are known to those in the trade as SWORD and EPIDERM.

The portfolio's bread and butter is chemicals and occupational hygiene control and measurement. Spend on these easily dwarfs the rest. In both areas, much work is concerned with the testing and control of new substances.

Newer concerns include neurotoxicity, reproductive health and possible synergistic effects from exposures to several chemicals at once.

Chemical Risks is such an extensive programme that there are eight sub-groups reporting to the
CR SRG, which acts as a "project board" for the programme. This arrangement has been in place for less than a year and will be reviewed, but it appears to be working well at the moment.

The HPRG questioned whether predominance of chemical, monitoring and measurement and hygiene work on its portfolio was right. It was aware that the two highest self-reported causes of ill health resulting from or made worse by work were musculoskeletal disorders and stress. The two relevant SRGs (Ergonomics and Psychosocial risk) were challenged to support policy and field work by developing a complementary research programme. Consequently, spend on musculoskeletal disorders and stress has grown steadily in the past years. There is, indeed, an interesting overlap between the two in that work-related stress can manifest itself as a musculoskeletal problem.

Research projects include: a community based survey of the scale of work-related stress in the Bristol area; intervention studies to assess ways of managing stress; a study of musculoskeletal disorders amongst floor cleaners; and laboratory studies on manual handling in complex and asymmetric postures.

The tools which the HPRG uses to challenge and monitor the portfolio are the ROAMEF statements (see HPRG objectives). All the SRGs and subgroups have adopted ROAMEF statements to help them in decision making.

The HPRG recently asked each of the SRGs to "map" their current projects against the Portfolio group's 12 objectives. When the exercise is completed the committee will be able to see at a glance the weight of projects against each objective and assess whether the balance needs adjusting between objectives.

Another recent initiative of the HPRG has been in the field of prioritisation. This is of growing concern to the group as more proposals are brought forward by the SRGs and resources became scarce. A prioritisation working group was set up in late 1996 and two brain-storming sessions held in which a cross-section of HSE staff involved in research considered what procedure could be used to select projects for funding. It was likened to having to select one person for a job from a shortlist of half a dozen all of whom would be able to do the job effectively. It was suggested that a questionnaire is used as a stimulus to objective thought and discussion, rather like a tender board score sheet. How this panel will fit into the approvals process for research projects has yet to be decided.

The HPRG has experimented with SRG presentations at its own meetings in order to promote a cross-fertilisation of ideas and awareness. It has encouraged SRGs to get more feedback and advice from organisations outside HSE and DoE representatives have attended relevant SRG meetings. It is possible that other departments such as Health will also be invited. Researchers have been invited to give presentations of their ideas on future research to SRGs and subgroups. In the areas of neurotoxicity, musculoskeletal disorders and reproductive health "mini" strategies have been written with the help of workshops involving academics and other stakeholders.

Finally, the HPRG has sought to develop an occupational health research strategy incorporating both in-house and external publications. This is still being drafted and consideration has yet to given to how it will be presented outside HSE.

Health will remain a priority for the Commission and Government for the foreseeable future. The challenge for the HPRG is to continue developing and managing a research portfolio that will make a meaningful contribution to the prevention and control of occupational ill-health in the UK while finding new ways of involving other stakeholders. We expect to do it.


(Contractor: SATRA Technology Centre)

Operators of moving machinery are normally advised by employers not to wear gloves because of the risk of them becoming entangled and drawn into the machine.

However, the conclusions of research carried out on behalf of the Textile, Clothing and Laundries NIG state that useful protection against cuts is offered by chain-mail gloves to operators of smooth-edged fabric cutters, without causing additional risks. This confirms long standing HSE advice on the use of chain-mail gloves in such circumstances.

The report produced on the research also describes 1.5 second a minimum cut through time criterion. The NIG are working with glove manufacturers to seek the recognition of this criterion and the possible adoption of standard testing procedures for protective gloves sold to the clothing industry .


(Contractor: WRc)

A review of the microbiological risks to human contacts (operators, farm workers and the public) caused by the landspreading of wastes has recently been completed on behalf of HSE.

The wastes concerned are spread on farmland as organic fertilisers, soil conditioners or for irrigation and are identified as sewage sludge, farm animal waste and wastes exempted for landspreading under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations (1994).

The review has considered the pathogens likely to be present in these wastes, the quantities of the waste spread on the land , the route of infection to humans, the die-off of pathogens in the environment and the rules and regulations in place to prevent disease transmission from landspreading of wastes.


(Contractor: Matsui Babcock Energy Ltd.)

Pressure vessels and transportable gas containers require periodic in-service inspection. The work carried out on this joint sponsored research project has been to establish non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques, which enable vessels to be inspected from the outside only (ie non-invasively).

Through practical work, utilising mainly ultrasonic techniques as well as other potential inspection methods, guidelines for inspection procedures have been produced. The guidelines have been qualified by their application to testpieces, and they provide details of the inspection techniques developed and recommendations on how they should be applied.

The work conducted on this research has additionally examined the basic design of such vessels. This has included work to investigate how vessel design and construction may be optimised to improve the potential for inspection by non-invasive techniques.


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