Research grants awarded

We commission a range of projects to establish evidence for health and safety policies and practice.

In 2016 we particularly sought research, which where appropriate, should also lead to practical resources eg guidance, tools and case studies that are useful to the workplace. We invited applications that addressed the following areas:

  • Health and wellbeing - key elements of successful interventions eg prevention, screening and monitoring to improve health and wellbeing in the workplace; effective management of mental health and chronic health conditions; return to work and re-deployment following long-term sick leave.
  • Organisational change and OSH performance eg OSH leadership and accountability within changing organisational structures. What do leaders in organisations need to do to ensure that OSH performance is not compromised as a result of organisational change? How can OSH performance be sustained or enhanced as a consequence of organisational change? What are the opportunities to enhance OSH performance during organisational change?
  • Occupational health and safety performance (OSH) reporting and sustainability and OSH as a ‘material issue’ ie exploration into context, metrics, non-financial reporting, human capital, integration into and influence in mainstream business. What constitutes good occupational health and safety performance reporting? What are the key elements of performance that Boards and managers need to be aware of as part of the human capital pillar? How should occupational health and safety performance be used to determine future priorities? How should KPIs and SPIs (Safety Performance Indicators) be derived and linked to business strategies and occupational health and safety plans for action?
  • Learning and training methodologies and OSH investigations into effective methods for workers’ and managers’ learning, training and sustained upskilling in OSH. Coaching, mentoring and general awareness-raising, eg accessing OSH information through internal briefings, benchmarking and guidance from authoritative sources, may also be included.

Projects funded in 2016

During 2016 we committed around £0.94 million to seven projects:

  • Institution: Cardiff University
  • Project leader: Professor Helen Sampson
  • Title: Safeguarding seafarer mental health
  • Start date: April 2017
  • End date: June 2019

This project looks into the issue of mental health in a large international workforce employed to work in institutionalised, remote, multicultural and largely single-sex (male) settings. As such the study will consider the following main research questions:

In the context of changes to shipboard work and life in the twenty-first century are mental health problems among seafarers considered to be a significant problem by key stakeholders within the international cargo shipping industry?

What factors and features of life on cargo vessels do seafarers identify as supporting and/or undermining good mental health and wellbeing?

What policies and practices could be implemented by ship operators and/or welfare bodies to provide better support for the mental health and wellbeing of seafarers?

  • Institution: Cranfield University
  • Project leader: Dr Colin Pilbeam
  • Title: Dysfunctional processes and fractured relationships: managing health and safety following organisational change through outsourcing
  • Start date: February 2017
  • End date: January 2019

The aim of this project is to understand how to sustain and enhance OSH performance in a lead firm following organisational change through outsourcing in relatively low- and high-hazard contexts. There are four objectives that together address this central question:

To develop and verify through a systematic review of relevant academic and practitioner-based literatures a conceptual model for examining the impact of organisational change through outsourcing on OSH performance.

To identify the different safety practices and processes occurring at the interface between lead-firm and suppliers operating in low- and high-hazard settings.

To investigate the nature and characteristics of the inter-personal relationships between employees of lead-firms and suppliers in the above organisational relationships.

To show how OSH performance degrades, sustains or is enhanced by different configurations of safety practices and processes and variations in inter-personal relationships arising from organisational change through outsourcing in low- and high-hazard settings.

  • Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Project leader: Professor Billy Hare
  • Title: Improving how designers learn about preventing hazards in their designs through a mixed-media approach
  • Start date: July 2017
  • End date: July 2018

The aim of this proposed research project is to improve how designers involved in construction projects learn about how their design influences the management of occupational health and safety once the design is implemented. To achieve this aim, the following objectives have been set:

Identify sector-specific hazards that can be influenced (either mitigated or aggravated) by designers of construction.

Evaluate strategies on how the hazards can be prevented or mitigated by designers of construction.

Develop a ‘hazards test’ for designers, tailored to sector-specific hazards.

Develop mixed-media strategies to fill the ‘experiential knowledge gap’ of designers who work on construction projects, to improve their ability to complete the ‘hazards test’, thereby improve their ability to identify, prevent and mitigate hazards.

Validate the mixed-media strategies.

Develop a pilot database of mixed-media materials to aid designers of construction in their statutory duty to identify, prevent and mitigate hazards flowing from their design.

  • Institution: Kings College London
  • Project leader: Dr Ian Mudway
  • Title: DEMiSt The Diesel Exposure Mitigation Study
  • Start date: July 2017
  • End date: June 2019

The overarching aim of the study is to parameterise risk of harm to professional drivers from exposure to diesel exhaust, allowing formulation of practical risk reduction strategies. This aim will be achieved through the following series of objectives:

Recruit and assess the exposure of 200 professional drivers to diesel exhaust in the working and home environment.

Characterise driver exposure to inhaled diesel emissions under a range of occupational settings, vehicle types and driving conditions.

Parameterise driver exposures, allowing identification of dominant variables dictating increased risk of harm from diesel emissions.

Identify and trial potential intervention methods for health improvement, focusing on strategies that can be applied to the existing vehicle fleet or working practices.

Collect blood from drivers for bio-banking for future studies investigating potential biomarkers of traffic exposure to provide a future occupational and public health research resource.

Establish a database of contextualised driver diesel exposure measurements.

Obtain funding to extend the DEMiSt study beyond its initial scope to incorporate additional environmental parameters and research questions, as guided by industry collaborators.

  • Institution: University of Nottingham
  • Project leader: Professor Avril Drummond
  • Title: Mental health in the workplace: a feasibility study
  • Start date: May 2017
  • End date: February 2018

This project seeks to address the gaps in the evidence-base for Mental Health First Aid by investigating its use and utility in addressing the mental health needs of the workforce in those organisations where at least one member of staff has attended MHFA training. The objectives are:

To investigate the extent, and variability, of the implementation of MHFA in organisations whose employees have received MHFA training.

To explore the perceptions and experiences of key stakeholders regarding the awareness, acceptability, uptake and impact of MHFA within their organisation, including barriers and facilitators to implementation.

To identify how the impact of MHFA might best be measured from the perspective of each of the main stakeholder groups, particularly employees who use/might use MHFA support in the workplace.

To determine whether and how MHFA can be defined and described in order to test its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

To present and disseminate a set of case studies on how MHFA is currently being implemented in a range of workplaces/organisations, and recommendations as to the content and delivery of the intervention in the workplace.

  • Institution: University of Nottingham
  • Project leader: Dr Glyn Lawson
  • Title: Multisensory virtual environments for OSH training
  • Start date: April 2017
  • End date: March 2019

The project aims to produce evidence-based guidance for the development and use of Virtual Environments (VEs) in engaging and effective training using cost-effective and accessible solutions, with the following specific objectives:

Develop and test a low-cost multisensory VE to establish the benefits of multimodal VEs in OSH training.

Study the validity of the behaviours demonstrated and effectiveness of the training with and without multisensory simulation in the fire evacuation and dangerous chemical use cases.

Prototype the VE in industrial use-cases, including fire evacuation training and response to chemical hazards.

Test low-cost scanning techniques for creating virtual representations of factory premises to demonstrate the feasibility of wide-scale adoption of VE training approaches in the short term future.

Refine the hardware and software to optimise wear-ability and usability for company employees.

Evaluate the benefits to business of the virtual training system, ie cost and time savings, OSH compliance, motivation to train and knowledge management.

  • Institution: Tilburg University
  • Project leader: Dr Margot Joosen
  • Title: The effect of the return to work (RTW) process on full and sustainable work resumption among workers on sick leave due to mental health problems (MHPs)
  • Start date: November 2017
  • End date: April 2019

The overall goal of this project is to improve support in the RTW process of workers on sickness absence due to MHPs. The study has three objectives, to:

Investigate how different gradual RTW trajectories are related to sustainable RTW

Identify the different trajectories of gradual RTW among workers on sickness absence

Provide a description of the different gradual RTW trajectories (ie the characteristics of the employees, the organisation and the RTW process for the different trajectories) and assess the implications for practice.

Projects funded in 2015

In 2015 we particularly welcomed research proposals that addressed the following specific areas:

OSH practitioner demonstrations engagement with OSH practitioners as part of their fieldwork and high-quality links between research and practice. Making use of working professionals to address real-world problems.

Non-UK projects research where the study topic is not UK-based. For example, projects focusing on the needs of practitioners across the globe or addressing emerging problems internationally.

Evidence-based research on health and safety performance on major construction projects, such as joint ventures, which also addresses safety culture in project partners.Health and safety risks associated with healthcare provision in the NHS, whether primary, secondary or tertiary care or related services such as ambulance provision. A focus on organisational change and impact on health and safety risks.

What constitutes good transitional arrangements during organisational change so that health and safety arrangements are not jeopardised and harm does not arise?

How does culture within society in general influence how health and safety practitioners see and discharge their duties? How does the culture, experience and background of practitioners influence how they see and discharge their duties?

During this year we committed around £0.6 million to four projects:

  • Institutions: University of Turku, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University Hospital of Leicester
  • Project leaders: Julian Wei-Tze Tang and Hannu Koskela
  • Title: Assessing hospital-acquired infection risks to healthcare workers from patients infected with aerosol - transmitted pathogens
  • Start date: January 2016
  • End date: December 2018

The aim of this study is to comprehensively explore/characterise the risk of potentially aerosol-transmitted infectious agents between patients and their healthcare workers (HCWs), in typical encounter scenarios in a hospital isolation room, using smoke, gas, virus tracers and CFD modelling, assessing the effect of the distance between the breathing (exhaling) patient and the breathing (inhaling) HCW, while both are wearing/not wearing surgical/N95 masks, in the presence of different ventilation rates and ventilation supply/exhaust vent geometries.

  • Institutions: Heriot Watt University and the Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • Project leader: Professor John Cherrie
  • Title: Nudging construction workers towards safer behaviour
  • Start date: June 2016
  • End date: May 2018

This project’s aim is to demonstrate whether the combination of short messages or ‘rewards’ delivered to the smartphones of construction workers, along with appropriate organisational support, can influence the workers’ behaviour to reduce exposure to UV radiation among those at risk of excessive exposure, or increase exposure / promote appropriate dietary changes among those who are likely to receive insufficient sun exposure to synthesise vitamin D.

  • Institution: Cranfield University
  • Project leader: Dr Mark Sullman
  • Title: Reducing risky driving behaviour using telematics and behaviour change
  • Start date: February 2016
  • End date: September 2017

The overriding aim of the research is to test whether pairing a behaviour change technique (ie, goal setting) with telematics data will result in a reduction in risky driving behaviour. The study aims to test scientifically and objectively several hypotheses including:

Telematics paired with goal setting will lead to a statistically significant reduction in the total number of alerts per kilometre measured over a 12 month period.

In-vehicle alerts will make an additional statistically significant contribution to reducing the total number of alerts per kilometre measured over a 12 month period.

  • Institution: University of Greenwich
  • Project leader: Professor Ed Galea
  • Title: Construction Site Evacuation Safety
  • Start date: May 2016
  • End date: April 2018

The aim of this research is to improve the safety of construction site workers during on-site emergency evacuations. This will be achieved through the development of a unique evidence base characterising the actual performance and behaviour of construction workers during emergency evacuation. This information, combined with computer simulation, can be used to inform the development of more reliable evacuation procedures improving the safety of construction workers.