Research Fund priority areas

Our 2019 call for research proposals has now closed. We welcomed applications which looked at the following areas:

Priority Area 1: Non-health-related fatalities

Some countries regard themselves as having a relatively mature legal framework for safety and have significantly reduced their non-health-related fatalities. These countries have moved their focus to other OSH-related issues like musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and mental wellbeing. Other countries are still working towards maturity.

Most fatal work-related accidents occur in low- and middle-income countries in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific region. I There is also an increase in occupational injury fatalities as a result of the growing share of production in countries whose industrial progress is rapid, particularly in Asia and Africa.ii

We are inviting researchers to submit proposals that examine how best to meet the challenges of reducing non-health-related fatalities in low- and middle-income economies. We welcome applications that focus on the prevention of fatalities and the positives of what is already taking place at an international, national or organisational level.

The scope of this call is deliberately wide to enable a range of disciplines and approaches to make research proposals.

Priority Area 2: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal conditions affect people across their working life-span in all regions of the world. In countries such as India and China the statistical base is weak, and up-to-date and accurate epidemiological data do not exist for Central America, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, the true global burden of musculoskeletal disorders is likely to be grossly underestimated. MSDs also represent an increasingly significant problem for European economies. Lost productivity and sickness absence due to MSDs alone cost the EU approximately €240bn each year (2% of GDP).iii

Changing demographics (e.g. an ageing population) and lifestyles (e.g. due to technology, diet and eating habits, lack of exercise) add to the complexities of how this prevalent issue can be overturned. Despite regulations being in place in many countries, there has been a failure to reduce MSDs among the workforce. For years statistics have not shown a significant improvement.

We are inviting researchers to submit proposals that include, but are not limited to, studies in the following areas:

  • the use of technology to prevent MSDs, e.g. the feasibility of technology in small and medium-sized organisations
  • ageing and lifestyle choices, e.g. modern lifestyles; and changes to the core body strength of workers and vulnerability to MSDs
  • interventions aimed at critical stakeholders, e.g. line managers who have team members with chronic MSD; and the use of psychological, vocational and physiological support for workers to extend working life
  • the effects of either new forms of work (e.g. the gig economy) or technology (e.g. young workers and intensive use of ICT devices) on the musculoskeletal system
  • the management of MSDs and other illnesses – e.g co-morbidity/multi-morbidity, mental health, pain and analgesia, and management at work/return to work
  • designing interventions to promote behaviour change at different levels, eg individual and organisational
  • minimising the growing burden of MSDs in low- and middle-income countries and increasing opportunities to improve OSH performance.


i Workplace Safety and Health Institute (2017). Global Estimates of Occupational Accidents and Work-related Illnesses2017

ii Jukka Takala, Päivi Hämäläinen, Kaija Leena Saarela, Loke Yoke Yun, Kathiresan Manickam, Tan Wee Jin, Peggy Heng, Caleb Tjong, Lim Guan Kheng, Samuel Lim & Gan Siok Lin (2014). Global Estimates of the Burden of Injury and Illness at Work in 2012, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 11:5, 326–337

iii The Work Foundation (2013). Reducing Temporary Work Absence Through Early Intervention: The case of MSDs in the EU