Issue 5: July 1998

S&T co-ordination through matrix mapping

The Environment wing of DETR (formerly Department of the Environment, DOE) developed the concept of matrix mapping in order to map their S&T links to the then Department of Transport (DOT) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) as a basis for S&T co-ordination and collaboration.

Matrix mapping is particularly applicable where responsibility for S&T is devolved to customer Directorates. Its purpose is to map the extent of co-ordination at the programme level between two Departments, by providing a summary in tabular form of the level of interaction between all the programmes of one Department with all those of the other. When first prepared, the matrix serves as a basis for reviewing co-ordination. It can then be updated periodically to monitor progress.

HSE first used matrix mapping to look at the links which existed between itself and DOE. However, the principal difficulty in applying this approach to HSE was the fact that our research is not organised along the programme lines that equate to the policy division led programme structure found in DOE. For the DOE/HSE exercise, HSE's Portfolio Research Group / Subject Research Group (PRG/SRG) structure was used, as this offered the most appropriate equivalent to DOE programmes.

Following the formation of DETR from DOE and DOT, it was decided to use the same approach to map HSE against the Transport wing of DETR, thereby completing HSE comparison with the Department. This exercise has now been completed.

Both the Environment and Transport matrices have been useful in providing HSE and DETR with the basis for recognition and maintenance of the existing good links between our organisations and in highlighting those topics of mutual interest, which have potential for co-ordination and collaboration in the future. The value of the exercise will only be realised if the results are used to bring about benefits for both parties. The challenge now is with PRGs and SRGs to make effective use of the matrices in order to further S&T co-ordination.

RSU intends to undertake further matrix mapping exercises with both the Environment Agency and the Department of Health later in the year. .

What's new

Pedestrian slipping - cleaning and surface treatment

(Contractor: HSL)

It has been shown that the cost to UK industry of slipping, tripping and falling accidents on level ground (STFLs) may be as high as £800 million per year. It is well known that STFL accidents account for a large percentage of all reported accidents - as high as 55% in high risk industries.

Previous HSE-funded work has shown that the consideration of floor surface and of shoe sole roughness profile is of paramount importance to the understanding of slip resistance. It seems likely that the microscopic surface profiles of many floor surfaces may be greatly modified by the use of polish or wax during maintenance. Such modifications will affect slip resistance, but the nature and severity of these changes have not yet been investigated. The slip properties of floor surfaces may be greatly modified by the application of 'anti-slip' surface treatments to existing floors. The effects of such surface treatments have not yet been studied in detail.

The objectives of this work are to identify products which are commonly used to treat workplace floor surfaces and to study the slip resistance of floors before and after treatment with such products. Common workplace floor cleaning products and waxes will be identified and the slip properties and roughness of floors before and after use of such products will also be studied.

Review of Vanadium and it's inorganic compounds

(Contractor: Diamond Environmental Ltd.)

Risk assessment documents are aimed at a technical audience and provide the scientific and technical information which underpins the setting of an occupational exposure limit (OEL) for a specific substance. OELs are set under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 1994.

The risk assessment document provides a thorough critical assessment of the available information on: the human health hazards for specific substances; occupational exposure to these substances; and the risks associated with their use in the workplace.

The purpose of this project is to provide a detailed review of the manufacture, use, exposure and control of vanadium and its inorganic compounds in the UK. The information gathered will be used in the occupational hygiene section of the risk assessment document. It will also be used to write the occupational hygiene part of the HSE's EH64 summary for vanadium and its inorganic compounds.

For further information contact: Ms Christine Northage (x 4464)

Exposure to respirable quartz and silicosis risks

(Contractor: Institute of Occupational Medicine)

HSE is currently evaluating the health effects of coal mine dust and respirable crystalline silica in respect of the definition of exposure limits. The current evidence relating to exposure to quartz and the development of silicosis is limited and based on a simple dependence on total culmative exposure, taking no account of any factors which may complicate the relationship. There is thus a need to further explore existing data to improve the current models by which pneumoconiosis may be predicted. The objectives of this work are to: gain more detailed knowledge of the exposure-response relationship between the patterns of accumulation of quartz exposures and the risk of developing pneumoconiotic abnormalities; investigate the extent to which knowledge of that relationship is improved by using dose measures other than simple cumulative exposure or simple models; and use the best available models to predict risk of exposure in various scenarios to provide information on the appropriate level for an occupational quartz standard.

A new type of ventilation system to control solder fume

(Contractor: University of Aberdeen)

Colophony or rosin is a natural pine resin used as a flux in soldering wire. Solder fume arising from the use of these fluxes is a known respiratory sensitiser.

The control of solder fume during hand soldering has generally been accomplished by using either bench or tip-mounted local exhaust ventilation or simple blowers. The effectiveness of such systems has been shown to be limited for a number of reasons including clogging of the extraction tip and also the need to locate the extraction system close to the source of the fume, which requires a high degree of training and supervision.

To address these limitations, a push-pull ventilation system will be developed to provide reliable control of solder fume. Once developed, it is intended that the system will be piloted in a number of electronics factories.

Virtual reality - induced symptoms and effects (VRISE) in the use of screen display equipment

(Contractor: University of Nottingham)

HSE has previously commissioned research into the effects of using immersive virtual reality (VR) systems. The research demonstrated that some users experience VRISE after quite short periods of use. However, little effect was noticed with short duration use of desktop VR systems.

The market for desktop VR systems is expanding much more rapidly than immersive systems, and there are also new developments in projection screen displays which allow VR use by groups.

This project intends to compare different styles of VR environment presentation with respect to their effects on user health and safety when the systems are used for extended periods and under different levels of user control. It is also intended to identify those characteristics of users and features of VR systems which may contribute to the experience of VRISE.

Mathematical modelling of an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and driver in an overturn

(Contractor: Motor Industries Research Assoc'n.)

Fixtures for fitting roll-over protection structures (ROPS) are likely to become a requirement within the next eighteen months for agricultural ATVs as a result of an amendment to the Use of Work Equipment Directive .

The riding technique used with ATVs and strength/weight limitations preclude the use of a fully enclosed protection zone for the rider. ROPS are aimed at reducing the potential for serious crushing injuries arising from overturning through more than 90 degrees. However, there may be some risk in such circumstances of causing additional injuries to the rider because of entanglement between the rider and the ROPS.

The purpose of this work is to assess: the balance between the benefits and the additional risks resulting from fitting ROPS to an ATV; and the reliability of the conclusions derived by mathematical modelling work in such scenarios.

Hazards of flammable solvent/water mixtures

(Contractor: HSL)

The use of water-based paints, inks, lacquers, etc. is advancing rapidly and there is increased usage in various industrial situations. Such products are sold as a more environmentally friendly and safer alternative to traditional solvent-based products, but the majority of these water-based products still contain a proportion of flammable solvent.

The bulk products are classified for storage, transport and supply as non-flammable. However, there is no direct evidence that the potential fire and explosion hazards have been completely (or partially) removed during use, particularly during spray application and drying.

The purpose of this project is to identify the flammability hazards during the spray application and drying of flammable solvent/water mixtures. The results of the work will be used to formulate safe operating conditions for such products and in turn, these may be used as the basis for guidance or standards.

Dispersion of Andnhydrous Hydrogen Flouride in humid atmospheres

(Contractor: Building Research Establishment)

Anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) is a very toxic and reactive substance. It is in widespread use throughout the EU and is listed in the SEVESO II Directive. There is considerable uncertainty in assessing the risks from industrial releases of AHF, as it exhibits complex thermodynamics. These include: phase changes on release from pressurised containment; formation of aerosol, etc; the formation of oligomers - an exothermic process; and the hydrolysis of AHF aerosol with water vapour - also an exothermic process. These thermodynamic processes have a marked effect on the dispersion processes in humid atmospheres (such as those of most EU countries), and no data exists to demonstrate or quantify the effect. This project intends to generate quality data sets and information to improve the understanding of the dispersion of industrial releases of AHF and the associated risks to people and the environment. It is part of a much larger project, which is germane to the implementation of the Seveso II Directive in EU member states. The EU have provided part funding for the work through the FP4: Climate and Environment Programme. HSE's Chemical and Hazardous Installations Division are leading the collaborative work on the project which has partners from the UK, France, Denmark and Sweden. Industrial funding will be provided for additional work, such as water spray mitigation strategies.

The management of health and safety senforcement in local authorities

(Contractor: York Consulting Ltd.)

During consultation for a quinquennial financial and management review of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive (HSC/E) in 1996/7, Stakeholders expressed concerns about the consistency of enforcement of health and safety legislation by Local Authorities. Much work was already in hand to address such concerns, including an annual exercise to look at the enforcement activity of a sample of Local Authorities. It is intended that this research project will build on previous work and will be undertaken under the auspices of the Health and Safety Executive/Local Authority Enforcement Liaison Committee, HELA. The aim of the work is to: provide a better understanding of the management of health and safety enforcement in different Local Authorities; identify the key factors leading to better management and quality assurance of the enforcement process; and measure the effectiveness of existing measures to ensure consistency.

Research into the effectiveness of stress interventions

(Contractor: University of Hertfordshire)

Work-related stress has become an increasingly important health and safety issue, and an array of research and surveys have indicated an increase in the incidence of reported stress by employees at all levels of organisations and from all employment backgrounds. In an attempt to address work-place stress, Local Authorities in England and Wales have taken a range of approaches in implementing interventions - programmes designed either: to help individuals who are coping with stress; or to ensure that the organisation is able to respond if work-place stress occurs.

While there appears to be a significant amount of evidence of an increase in the incidence of reported stress, there is little parallel research that contributes to HSE's understanding of interventions and approaches that can be implemented to manage and reduce work-related stress. The aim of this project is to identify and define approaches and interventions, with evaluation measures, that contribute towards minimising and managing workplace stress in public sector authorities. The work will also provide a reliable and flexible evaluatory measure to determine the applicability, value and cost effectiveness of stress interventions.

The Engineering Portfolio Research Group

The EPRG objectives may be summarised as follows:

To provide the Research Strategy Committee with a strategic overview and forward look for all Engineering research by issuing an annual PRG report The Engineering Portfolio Research Group (EPRG) was formed in early 1996 and its first formal meeting was held in April 1996. EPRG is chaired by Mike Fountain, Head of Technology Division (DST(E)). The Group sees its main role as providing HSE's Research Strategy Committee with a strategic overview and forward look for all engineering research areas. This requires the Group to take account of HSE's engineering research in not only HSE's Mainstream Research Programme (which now also includes Offshore Safety Research) but also in the Nuclear Safety Research Programme, and EPRG has benefited from the active participation, expertise and industry-specific information provided by Offshore Safety Division and Nuclear Safety Directorate representatives. In this respect, EPRG is an effective forum for information exchange.

When EPRG was formed, one of its first tasks was to restructure the Subject Research Groups (SRGs) to provide the fewest number which gave complete coverage of engineering research subjects within its remit. There are now four SRGs reporting to EPRG: Control Systems & Electrical Engineering SRG; Engineering Integrity and Materials SRG; Civil, Structural and Construction SRG; and Machinery, Plant Safety and Mechanical Handling SRG, and their interests range across: risk based inspection; safety integrity levels; structural integrity and continued fitness for purpose of safety related computer control systems; the stability and other concerns of mobile plant; and risk assessment in machinery design. EPRG and its SRGs have each prepared ROAMEF statements to cover the scope of their work. Each SRG has also considered its own priorities and has drawn up a list of perceived high priority topics. Prioritisation is of growing importance as resources become tighter and increasing numbers of research proposals are put forward.

The Control Systems & Electrical Engineering SRG chaired by Ron Bell (Technology Division, DST E1) is concerned with research into electrical safety, leading to guidance to industry, and includes: safety in the use of light emitting systems in potentially flammable atmospheres; evaluation of the safety integrity levels of explosion protected equipment; criteria for electrostatic spraying of highly flammable liquids; and ignition capability of certain designs of explosion protected motors.

On the Control Systems side there is an increasing trend in industry to use commercial software packages in safety applications, as opposed to developing special-purpose software. The SRG provides expert review of a joint HSE/MoD research contract to develop practical guidance to industry.

The explosion at the Texaco refinery in Milford Haven in July 1994 highlighted the importance of good alarm handling which reports significant information to operators but without overwhelming them with information. Research was commissioned which led to a contract research report by Bransby Automation Ltd being published. The project aims were to determine the best current practice in the chemical and power industries on the procurement, design and management of alarm systems.

Recent research in a high profile area concerns the risks arising from "Millennium Bug" or "Year 2000 problem", where date change 1999 to is expected cause disruption many computer systems. Three industry guidance documents based on commissioned by DST this have been published: contract report Real Time Engineering Ltd., analysing safety implications and offering method for assessing likely technical management vulnerability of specific system; an HSL advising technically competent users how test if their system suffer Year-2000 failure; free advice leaflet raise awareness SMEs encourage them take timely precautions.

One of HSC/E's continuing aims is to promote the application of risk assessment and technological understanding to standard setting and enforcement activities. This requires the identification of trends in science and technology and their likely impact on safety, and the interpretation and application of the outcome of research.

The Engineering Integrity and Materials SRG chaired by Chris Nicholson (HSL) has identified priority topics for research within this specialist area to meet these aims. One of the basic requirements for assessing the integrity of engineering materials and components is the ability to detect defects by non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques. A programme to assess the effectiveness of routine NDT carried out on common industrial components has been contracted; it started in November 1996 and is planned to be completed by October 1999. The programme is being developed in detail by a management committee drawn from a broad range of UK industry. It involves producing test pieces replicating selected industrial components containing defects (an example is shown in the photograph), which will then be inspected by industrial NDT teams using selected techniques. The results will be analysed to provide information about the effectiveness of the NDT techniques together with recommendations for improvements where the work shows that these would be desirable. The programme is being conducted by the Inspection Validation Centre of AEA Technology.

The Civil, Structural and Construction SRG chaired by Mike Harrison (FOD) has a project within its remit that involves the development of a novel sensor system to measure the dynamic forces created when a person strikes an object eg by falling from a height onto safety netting or stumbling onto a fragile roof panel. The final phase of the project will use this information to develop test methods to mimic the worst-case impacts, to inform the design of various types of structure. The test rig, (which is shown in the photograph), has been completed and the next stage will be to move onto the dynamic measurements phase. The project will lead to production of guidance which will help manufacturers to decide on appropriate test methods which they can adopt for materials, including roofing sheets and safety netting. This should help to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries resulting from falls from height and/or through fragile materials, resulting from inadequate specification of barriers, netting, fragile roofing materials etc., not only in construction but also in other industry sectors. It will contribute to HSC's aim to provide appropriate information and advice and support both FOD's 2 year Key National Objective on falls through fragile roofing material and HSC's objective of cutting injury rates, particularly in the agriculture, construction and manufacturing sectors.

The Machinery, Plant Safety and Mechanical Handling SRG chaired by John Lee (Technology Division, DST E2) is concerned with research into the design and use of machinery, equipment and plant. The forthcoming Provision and Use of Work Equipment and Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 cover the use of such plant. Research into mobile machinery stability, visibility and operator restraint is underway and being planned to investigate ways of complying with these Regulations and possible future developments. In addition, changes in the nature of lifting equipment and the ways in which it is used have brought about the need for research into the fatigue resistance of wire ropes and high strength steel chains to ensure that safety standards are maintained.

In the Fairgrounds industry research has been carried out to develop a system for measuring the accelerations associated with modern rides. The system is now being used to evaluate the characteristics of different rides to provide guidance on acceptable design standards and appropriate means of passenger restraint. Currently research is being carried out on the ergonomics of ride controls.

At a more general level work continues on techniques for machinery risk assessment to support the European standard for "Safety of machinery, Principles for risk assessment [EN1050]". This work is identifying and developing techniques to assist designers to address safety in the design process. Also, a research report has been published on "Safety aspects of computerised maintenance management systems".

Details of completed projects

A study to determine the extent of musculoskeletal disorders amongst forestry chainsaw operators

(Contractor: University of Wales Aberystwyth.)

The current trend in the forestry industry is towards mechanised harvesting of trees. In Wales however, there are large areas of forest terrain that are unsuitable for mechanised harvesters. Such areas require the use of chainsaws in difficult conditions.

Previous work by HSE has targeted the protection of chainsaw operators from traumatic cuts caused by chainsaw kickback and from the effects of vibration from the saw, which can cause vibration white finger. As a result of this research, operators are now required to wear personal protective equipment and saw designs have been improved in order to reduce the transmission of vibration and also to prevent operator injury if the saw kicks back.

This additional research project was commissioned in order to study the risks associated with chainsaw operators developing musculoskeletal disorders as a result of the physical effort exerted during the course of their work activities. A pilot study involving a questionnaire survey of 36 chainsaw operators within a sector of the Welsh forestry industry was undertaken. The general findings of the study showed significant evidence of musculoskeletal disorders to the lower back, hands and wrists.

From the various work tasks the chainsaw operators were involved with, tree felling was found to be the activity responsible for the highest incidence of injury in the survey group. All but one of those surveyed had been trained in organised felling techniques, and yet only half of the group used these techniques in practice. However, there was little difference in the range of musculoskeletal disorders between those that had implemented organised felling techniques and those that had not. Finally, little evidence was found to suggest that recreational activities exacerbated the musculoskeletal injuries found in the group of operatives surveyed.

The effects of lifting and suspending from rockbolts

(Contractor: Rock Mechanics Technology Ltd)

This work was aimed at investigating the effects on coal mine roofs of lifting and suspending loads from rockbolts. Standard rockbolts, used to support roadways, are precluded from use as lifting bolts but may be used to suspend loads up to a maximum of 1 tonne. To enable the lifting and suspension of loads greater than 1 tonne (where rockbolting is the means of support), special purpose anchor bolts have been produced.

The investigation examined the effects of lifting bolt loads on the surrounding rock and rockbolt support systems, and possible long term and cyclic loading effects. The results of field test studies were also simulated using computer modelling in order to confirm agreement between theoretical models and actual results obtained.

The study confirmed that loads applied to anchor bolts have negligible effects on surrounding roof strata. A roof fall caused by loading of properly installed bolts is most unlikely to occur. The most probable cause of failure of anchor bolts (used for lifting) is bond failure. This is due to poor installation or loss of resin on installation caused by a highly deformed roof. Anchor bolt failure due to bolt deformation, caused by subsequent roof movement, is also possible. This is particularly likely where immediate roof shear results in significant bolt bending.

Operational loading of lifting bolts, used to suspend coal face-end equipment, varied widely. A system of monorail suspension which was encountered was thought to need improvement in order to allow better distribution of loads between the lifting bolts.

It was concluded that the guidance on the use of anchor bolts used for lifting should be reviewed and that records of bolt installation details, of testing and of bolt deformation history (for those occasions when bolts are to be reused) should be retained.

In vitro models for the prediction of dermal absorbtion of chemicals

(Contractor: University of Newcastle upon Tyne)

In carrying out human health risk assessments in respect of its regulatory activities for hazardous substances, HSE has to deal with a wide range of chemicals and potential exposure scenarios. Uptake of substances via the skin is well recognised as being important in many occupational situations but the information available for assessing quantitatively the amount likely to be taken up under given conditions is often very limited or unavailable. Obtaining this type of data from studies in humans or animal models has ethical and resource constraints and so the development of alternative predictive techniques is becoming of increasing importance. This project aimed to develop systems which could be used to help predict uptake quantitatively and to provide information for the development and validation of an expert-based software model to be used for predicting skin uptake. A static diffusion system using ethanol/water as a receptor fluid was used to determine the absorption profile of a range of substances across skin derived from rat, pig and human in vitro . Tissue culture techniques were used to artificially produce skin samples in vitro. The group of 18 substances chosen for study covered a wide range of lipophilicities as reflected in the octanol/water coefficients (log p) ranging from -3.3(low lipophilicity) to 5.1 high.

Rat skin predicted human skin permeability more effectively for the more hydrophilic chemicals (log P 'lees than' 2) when applied in water. Pig skin more closely predicted human skin permeability than did rat skin for all chemicals applied in acetone. for human skin, absorbtion from water was faster than from acetone only for the lipophilic chemicals (log P 'greater than' 2) . For more hydrophilic substances, there was good agreement between the absorbtion rates from either vehicle. A 10 fold change in the applied concentration of urea in water did not affect the absorbtion through rat skin in vitro. however, larger increases in applied concentration in acetone for the lipophilic chemivcals testosterone and chloropyrifos methyl resulted in a large decrease in the amount absorbed through rat skin. This was also observed for pig skin for chlorpyrifos methyl. Acetone reduced the absorbtion of urea through rat skin relative to the same applied concentration in water, but did not greatly affect the absorbtion of a range of chemicals although the choice of model skin, vehicle and dose were important considerations. This data obtained from these studies is now being used to develop further and validate the knowledge- based system for predicting skin absorbtion developed at HSL.

Recent publications

Contract Research Reports

All these titles are available as priced publications from HSE Books.

Added to the web 29th July 1998

Updated 2022-05-10