Issue 16: April 2001

Framework agreements awarded

At the end of January 2001, HSE awarded technical support framework agreements to five international organisations: AEA Technology; Amey Vectra Ltd; BOMEL; NEL; and WS Atkins. The agreements cover the provision of technical support and analysis services across those sectors of industry in which HSE is involved, including: rail; construction; offshore oil and gas and nuclear; and will enable HSE staff to access specialists in many areas such as: human factors and safety management in design and operation; risk and reliability analysis; structural design and integrity; process safety; and control and instrumentation. The organisations were selected following and open tender advertisement placed in the Official Journal of the European Community (OJEC).

An awards ceremony was held at Rose Court, HSE's London Headquarters. David Eves, HSE's Deputy Director General, said that having the Agreements in place would enhance HSE's ability to respond to the challenges of regulating health and safety in the workplace: 'These companies will be providing invaluable technical support and contributing to the robust service HSE provides in helping to make working environments safer. There are big challenges ahead - notably, in meeting the Government's Revitalising Health and Safety plan which aims to reduce the impact of health and safety failures by 30% over ten years. Public safety is paramount and we welcome the support of these eminent companies who have been awarded the Agreements.'

Pictured at the awards ceremony are (left to right): Dr Colin Billington (BOMEL); Dr Roy Taylor (AEA Technology); Peter San (HSE's contract manager for the Framework Agreements); John Mather (WS Atkins); Dr John Field (Amey Vectra); and Walter McKinlay (NEL).

What's new?


(Contractor: Entec UK Ltd)

Historically, HSE has had a policy of not seeking to enforce health and safety legislation in relation to work-related driving activities on public highways. Following a review of this policy, the Health and safety Commission recommended to Ministers that an interagency task group should be set up to develop policy, standards, guidance and enforcement practice in this area. This proposal was accepted and was included in the Government's Road Safety Strategy, launched on 1 April 2000. An important part of the work of the task group is to obtain a better understanding of the causes and methods of preventing work-related road traffic incidents. This project is intended to support the work of the task group. An evaluation of the effectiveness of safe driving policies and other management arrangements adopted by companies to prevent work-related road traffic incidents will be carried out. The project will also investigate the contribution of individual driver characteristics in such incidents. The Scottish Executive will also fund an element of the project.


(Contractor: Human Engineering [Scotland] Ltd)

Hierarchical Task Analysis has been a tool used by human factor specialists for codifying the work practices within an organisation. However, it is time consuming and difficult to handle the vast amounts of data generated. An alternative, the GOTA (Goals, Objectives, Tasks, Actions) method, requires viewing the relationships between the goals, tasks and activities and the cognitive, operational processes. It is a shorthand, diagrammatic notation method which captures the key aspects of a task or job to facilitate analysis. It can be completed with pen and paper during an interview or evaluation. This project will evaluate the GOTA method and other similar goal-based analysis techniques used to notate a process or job, to determine whether such methods enable health and safety practitioners/ Inspectors to recognise the implications of tasks and jobs in an assessment of incident potential.


(Contractor: University of Cardiff)

Substantial numbers of people in employment take psychotropic medication as part of their treatment for conditions such as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. These drugs are often very effective in controlling the illness, which in turn means that the person taking the medication can often participate fully in the workplace. However, questions remain about the effects of psychotropic medication on work performance, the implications for safety and what can be done to help people who are taking these medications to continue to function effectively at work.

This project will investigate the prevalence of psychotropic medication use in a representative sample of the UK working population. Several different methodologies will then be used to assess the impact of these drugs on workplace performance and safety. These methodologies will include a community survey, a study of workplace accidents, use of computerised tests of cognitive performance and responses to questionnaires assessing errors at work. In addition, the psychosocial profile of at risk individuals will be determined and information will be collected on suitable coping strategies.


(Contractor: University of Keele)

Since 1992, HSE has organised seven Health and Safety Weeks, three of which have been designated European Weeks run in all the member states of the EU. Health and Safety Weeks have become a regular feature of HSE's annual publicity and promotion activity and are used to launch HSE publications or campaigns. The strategy is to encourage and motivate people to get involved, think about what they can do during the Week, get information, involve the workforce and take action. Participating organisations are encouraged to report back on what they have done and subsequently awards are given for the best ideas or initiatives that are brought to HSE's attention.

The European Week of Safety and Health 2000 was the fourth such European Week and the first to be organised and coordinated by the European Agency for Safety and Health. The focus for the Week was the prevention of work related musculoskeletal disorders. HSE, through the UK Focal Point, was responsible for organising and running the Week in the UK. Its impact and effectiveness will now be evaluated, by identifying: those who took part; what they did and why; enduring benefits and good practice arising from the Week; and lessons for the future.


(Contractor: Institute of Occupational Medicine)

Ministers have invited the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), in liaison with the Department of Health (DoH), to provide advice on improving access to occupational health support - particularly for small and medium sized enterprises. This reflects the Government's concern about health at work and that the lack of access to occupational health support contributes to health inequalities in the adult population. The advice is contained in a report by HSC's Occupational Health Advisory Committee, 'Improving Access to Occupational Health Support' published in July 2000. Implementation of the recommendations from the report will take place over the next 3 to 4 years through joint HSC/DoH activities, such as a programme of pilot studies, research and other initiatives. These activities aims to increase the proportion of employers who use occupational health support by 10% by 2003. In order to achieve this, a reliable estimate of the proportion of employers who currently use occupational health support is required to serve as a baseline against which the future can be compared. This research aims to establish such a baseline together with an analysis of current occupational health support use.


(Contractor: Building Research Establishment)

A steady increase in the efficiency of open flued, natural draught domestic gas boilers and a legal requirement to meet minimum efficiency levels has resulted in a lowering of the temperature of flue gases. Previous research using natural ventilation has shown that this makes the flue more prone to spillage and condensation on boiler start up, which in turn leads to a build up of carbon monoxide in the room in which the boiler is situated. This project will investigate the effects of varying wind conditions, ventilation systems (such as extraction fans) and flue terminal positions on flue spillage rates. The work will use the new requirements for flue heights specified in BS5440 part 1. The project will contribute to HSE's ongoing efforts to reduce the number of fatalities from carbon monoxide poisoning.


(Contractor: System Concepts Ltd.)

Action point 5 of the Revitalising Health and Safety Strategy Statement (published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions in June 2000) stated 'The compensation, benefits and insurance systems must motivate employers to improve their health and safety performance, in particular by securing a better balance in the distribution of the costs of health and safety failures.'... 'The Government sees a case for reforming the arrangements for employers' liability insurance in pursuit of these goals.' HSE is looking at the prospects of the insurance industry adjusting premiums for individual employers, according to whether or not they have incurred compensation claims. This could give employers a financial incentive to improve their health and safety performance. As part of this work, this research project will collect and analyse accident and injury related compensation claims data held by the major trade unions and aims provide a better understanding of the trends within the data regarding: scale, types, severity and cost of compensation claims; information on non-compliance; and information on public liability/third party claims.


(Contractor: Institute of Occupational Health)

HSE guidance (L23) provided to duty holders under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations (MHORs) 1992 sets out biomechanically based principles of lifting technique. These principles do not discriminate between different types of load. There are a wide range of risks associated with different types of load and HSE recognises the limitations of its practical guidance in this respect. The aim of this research is to identify where current advice on correct manual handling is inadequate, inappropriate or inapplicable and to counteract these inadequacies.

Industry groups, safety group and other networks of professionals will be consulted to identify generic loads, systems or workplace constraints for which handling technique information could usefully be developed. Published literature on biomechanics and other relevant disciplines will be reviewed to ascertain what alternative or additional advice is available. Via a 'Delphi' exercise, experts in relevant disciplines will be consulted to establish an informed consensus on the basic physical and behavioural elements of good handling techniques. Those who use manual handling guidance to teach others will be consulted on the suitability of any revised guidance produced.


(Contractor: Acoustic Technology Ltd)

A significant amount of work has been undertaken by operators/designers to increase awareness of steady state vibration that can result in piping fatigue failures. However, little consideration has been given to transient vibration generated by the operation of fast acting valves. In the past few years there have been several failures of small bore connections in the vicinity of fast acting valves on North Sea Platforms and partial failures of flange connections on refinery shipping lines. This project aims to develop a methodology to predict transient forces arising from the operation of fast acting valves, so providing a simple screening tool to assess potential piping problems.



(Contractors: OCTO Ltd and Cranfield University)

The contractors visited 11 Major Hazard sites of varying size and complexity within the UK. Detailed interviews with staff were carried out, a thorough description of each site visited was made and a system of scoring was then applied to the physical aspects and personnel of each site. Performance in emergency exercises on each site was observed and assessed. The information was compiled into a database and exported into the Emergency Management Performance Indicator and Risk Evaluation framework (EMPIRE), allowing weightings to be placed on the Risk Management Goals, according to their relative importance on each site. The level of 'site preparedness' was established and benchmarked. Its relationship with the level of performance in emergency exercises was then recorded and compared. Scores were verified with each participating site and were accepted by each site as representative of their current performance.

The results of the exercise indicated that a document review alone was a misleading indicator of emergency preparedness and must be backed up by site inspection. Likewise, observing a site emergency exercise was not a sufficient indicator in itself and should be considered alongside the overall emergency preparedness of a site. Six key features were found to be representative of overall emergency capability and quality of practical performance. These were: senior management commitment; emergency philosophy; emergency management team structure; information management system; exercise regime; and several specific features of team preparedness. The level of senior management commitment was strongly reflected in team performance. A realistic and risk-based site emergency response philosophy indicated strength in depth across the site emergency arrangements as a whole. With effective resources, a team with defined roles, in a structure the promotes fluid information management and a reliable leadership structure, can be expected to demonstrate a robust chance of successfully managing a site emergency. Information handling was shown to be a key factor in team performance. With emergency exercises, a defined structure of frequent small scale drills with less frequent large scale simulations based on the site safety case or actual incidents was shown to be good practice. For emergency preparedness, quality of performance was most influenced by: training in command/control techniques; competence of emergency managers; coaching of emergency management teams; and continuity in membership of teams.


(Contractor: Institute of Occupational Medicine)

This project examined the feasibility of assembling data on the frequency and distribution of ill-health presenting to general practitioners in relation to occupation. Four main GP morbidity recording schemes were identified and relevant information was obtained direct from the scheme owners. Each schemes kept the identities of individual subjects anonymised through coding. Data recording and the completeness of entries were quality assured. Unfortunately, none of the schemes were found to routinely record an individual's occupation. However, if this information was to be collected, the four schemes together would provide a population of sufficient size to detect differences in frequency of ill-health in most occupations. As a result, the contractor proposed the design of a possible pilot study. The report will be available shortly in the CRR series on HSE's website.


(Contractor: HSL)

This study was undertaken to assess the potential exposure and uptake of a range of cytotoxic drugs by clinical and administrative staff on oncology wards in an NHS Trust hospital. The hospital had appropriate implementation of COSHH in place and had good working practices in use.

Absorption of the drugs by all routes of exposure (inhalation, dermal and ingestion) was assessed through the use of non-invasive biological monitoring techniques. A strategy of urine sampling was arranged around the high dosage treatment regimes of the drugs. Staff monitored included those administering the cytotoxic drugs (infusion teams), those involved in nursing care of patients receiving the drugs and those involved in other ward duties (cleaning and clerical staff). A limited number of surface wipe tests from key areas within the wards were taken to assess surface contamination. The contamination of personal protective equipment (PPE) after use was also investigated.

The study found no evidence of any drug absorption by the hospital staff studied. No accidents or spillage of drugs were reported during the study which may be a potential cause of undue exposure. The use of disposable gloves on all occasions when cytotoxic drugs are handled or may be encountered is reinforced, given that some used gloves were found to be significantly contaminated with cytotoxic drugs, particularly for infusion team staff. From analysis of the surface wipes, very little contamination was found in those areas where drugs were prepared, stored or handled prior to their administration. High levels of surface contamination were found in areas where patient's urine/excreta and soiled bed linen were handled, such as in the sluice room, emphasising the need to wear appropriate protective clothing to minimise the risk of exposure from work activities in those areas.


(Contractor: Wardell Armstrong)

Firedamp or coalbed methane is found in coal seams as a result of chemical reactions that have taken place during coal formation. The gas consists mainly of methane (80 to 95%) with lower amounts of ethane, propane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Firedamp is emitted from coal, exposed on the coal face, broken by cutting machines or being moved by conveyors. It can cause potentially hazardous working conditions in a mine and increase the risk of explosion. Drainage techniques allow planned coal production rates to be achieved safely by reducing gas emissions into mines to a level that can be satisfactorily diluted by available fresh air. Gas drainage is also needed to reduce the risk of sudden, uncontrolled emissions of gas into working districts of mines. All UK mines with firedamp drainage use a cross-measures drilling method. Boreholes are drilled at an angle close to the coal face which are connected to a common pipe range. Suction is applied and firedamp is drawn off to a discharge point or utilisation plant.

Arising from a successful proposal submitted in response to HSE's 'Competition of Ideas' 1999/2000, this project has reviewed the state-of-the-art of firedamp drainage and its application in UK mines, and has provided recommendations to HSE's Mines Inspectorate on safety enhancements relating to the topic. A Contract Research Report (CRR 326/2001) describing the work undertaken is available for free download from HSE's website. Alternatively, a paper copy of the report can be purchase from HSE Books.


 CRR and OT Reports are being made available for free download at: 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 HSE web site 11 May 2001

Updated 2021-03-30