Academic research


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Understanding the role of supply chains...

Peer reviewed and published

Cardiff University
Prof David Walters, Prof Philip James
(Oxford Brookes University Business School)

This report details a study which was commissioned by IOSH to provide a detailed systematic international review of the research literature and other information currently available concerning the nature of supply chain relationships, the factors that shape them, and their role in influencing health and safety management and standards among supplier organisations. Its findings, while highlighting the general lack of research evidence on the health and safety effects of supply chains, indicate that such chains frequently generate adverse consequences in supplier organisations and relatively rarely encompass attempts by buyers to influence positively how health and safety is managed within them. They further suggest that initiatives of this type are most likely to occur where they are seen to support the business interests of buyers and, in particular, when external economic, social and regulatory pressures serve to generate ‘reputational risks’, and that the success of such initiatives depends on their encompassing adequate mechanisms for supervising and controlling supplier compliance with them. The report ends by detailing a set of propositions regarding the health and safety-related dynamics of supply chains that merit further empirical exploration and by putting forward suggestions as to how these could most usefully be investigated through future research.

Management of safety rules and procedures

Peer reviewed and published

Professor Andrew Hale (HASTAM UK), Dr David Borys and Professor Dennis Else (University of Ballarat)

A review was conducted of the literature on the management of rules and procedures that affect safety, concentrating on rules at the workplace level. A literature search in the scientific and grey literature revealed 180 key references for study. The literature fell into two contrasting paradigms. The first is a relatively static, rationalist, top–down view of rules as the one best way of working, devised by experts distant from the workplace, imposed on operators as a way of constraining incorrect or inadequate behaviour, where violations are seen as aberrations to be suppressed. The second is a relatively dynamic, bottom–up view of rules as local, situated, socially constructed, devised by those at the sharp end, embodying their tacit knowledge from their experience of diverse reality. The report explores these two paradigms, the evidence from theory and field studies which supports or fills them out, and their consequences for procedure management. It proposes a model of procedure management that attempts to draw the lessons from both paradigms and combine their strong points. This is a nine-step dynamic cycle, driven by the central task of monitoring rule and procedure use in order to optimise it through a combination of learning and procedure modification, rule scrapping and rule enforcement. This framework forms the basis for the stand-alone ‘Notes of guidance’,* including a summary intervention plan to review and improve practice in organisations.

Building safely by design

Peer reviewed and published

University of Reading
Jennifer Whyte (University of Reading), Rafael Sacks
Technion – (Israel Institute of Technology, Israel)
Wei Zhou and Adrian Haffegee
(University of Reading, UK)

The aim of this project was to identify effective modes of interaction between designers, construction design and management (CDM) co-ordinators and builders, in which they collaborate – with the aid of a virtual reality (VR) tool as a catalyst for their conversation – to design safe construction processes. The objectives were to develop a method for assessing the safety implications of a detailed design model of a building; develop immersive and augmented visualisation techniques for use in this assessment; and trial the process with construction workers on a construction project.

At the University of Reading, a digital laboratory was set up, and strategies were developed for visualising models and recording collaborations. Interactions with experienced industrial partners informed the research design – this evolved from the original plan. Experiments were conducted with both industry partners and graduate students.

Using the immersive environment, experienced safety professionals discussed hazards relating to a crane, a roof, edge protection, voids, stairs, scaffolding and cladding. Through interaction with the model, these professionals were able to understand the constraints of the building and the site. They drew attention to a broader set of alternative construction methods than graduate students.

The experiments highlight the practical challenges of building safely by design, as well as the potential of visualisation using 3D stereo displays. The experiments also suggest that rich models are needed which direct attention to relevant aspects and allow professionals to probe and discover further contextual information about the project, and to see it within the context of the site.

As building information modelling (BIM) becomes widely used in construction, it raises new opportunities and questions about how digital models can be used to build safely by design. This study suggests a new trajectory of research on digital tools that fosters mindful practices, and the rich interactions associated with these practices. Further research is underway to extend this study and address some of its limitations

Using pictures in training

Peer reviewed and published

Glasgow Caledonian University
Prof Iain Cameron, Dr Billy Hare, Dr Roy Duff and Fiona McNairney

Strategies adopted in construction to communicate with non English-speaking migrant workers include the use of pictorial aids. However, there have been few construction-specific studies in this area and few validation techniques applied to them. The aim of this research was to establish whether delivering hazard information and instruction using pictorial aids can be linked with an improvement (ie better results than with text-only materials) in targeted competences and behaviours among second-language (migrant) workers.

Four targeted themes were identified for the purpose of the research:
A exclusion zones
B materials storage
C use of hand tools
D personal protective equipment (PPE).

Knowledge was measured via a 24-question multiple choice pictorial test with six questions per theme. Behaviour was measured via eight observational criteria, two per theme. The interventions consisted of pictorial toolbox talks on themes A and B, conducted on two sites (sites 1 and 3, collectively known as group 1). Conversely, themes C and D featured on sites 2 and 4 (group 2). Each group acted as the control for the other by using text-only versions of the corresponding toolbox talks. Sites 1 and 2 were revisited one month later to be tested again.

The main findings were:

• the mean knowledge test scores after using pictorial aids increased in all cases by more than those
with text-only versions
• the analysis of variance (ANOVA) of knowledge test scores found very significant interaction
effects over all the sites
• one month later, test scores remained high but there was a ceiling effect.

This shows that training with pictorial materials improves knowledge and understanding among second-language migrant workers better than text alone. In addition, the average pre- intervention knowledge test score was 10 per cent higher than previous research. This is probably because all the workers in the sample were European and had attained CSCS competence levels. The scores also agreed with previous findings showing that more experienced workers generally score higher.

The observation scores were not as conclusive. Prima facie, the results were similar as the plotted graphs showed that improvements in safe behaviours were generally greater on intervention sites; however, ANOVA returned no significant differences on virtually all individual measures. Combined scores for behaviour returned significant or very near significant results. This shows that measuring the impact of the images on behaviour is both challenging and unpredictable. Pictorial aids are merely a method of communication and do not ensure compliance. Where scores improved, they remained high one month later for themes A and B, whereas the scores dipped for themes C and D. In the case of A and B, site managers placed posters of the training images beside work areas. This ‘poster effect’ may have been the reason for the longer-term differences.

The benefits of pictorial aids to help improve health and safety knowledge should be disseminated to the construction industry and beyond. The format of ‘hazard–consequences–controls’ should continue to be used. Sketch drawings, pictograms and photos all have different strengths. However, further research is needed to establish how they can be used more efficiently. The use of pictorial toolbox talks in conjunction with a synchronised poster campaign or ‘Trojan horse’ approach may improve the overall impact of pictorial aids in communicating health and safety information. But their long term efficacy needs to be investigated further.

Working voices

Peer reviewed and published

Working voices.pdf
University of Ulster
Dr Diane Hazlett, Dr Anne Moorhead and Dr Orla Duffy (School of Health Sciences)

Call centre workers use their voice for prolonged periods, thus increasing their risk of occupational voice disorders. The lack of robust investigation into voice use and its impact on vocal performance represents a gap in occupational health and safety research.
The objectives of this study were to:
• investigate the work context and vocal communication demands for call agents
• evaluate call agents’ vocal health, awareness and performance
• identify key risks and training needs for employees and employers in call centres.

This was an occupational epidemiological study consisting of qualitative and quantitative approaches. It had three stages: interviews with senior call centre managers; a large-scale epidemiological online survey; and acoustic measurements in the actual work environment.

The interviews with the managers revealed that the vast majority of call centres do not provide vocal training. The acoustic data indicated that at the end of a telephone call the call agent’s voice may have become hoarse with fatigue and pitch variation compared to the start of the call. The structural equation modelling based on survey data showed that physiological voice production is significantly associated with psychosocial and medical health. A high risk group of call agents, identified as women who have recently started work in a call centre, who have received no vocal training and are off work on sick leave, is at significant risk of developing physiological voice problems. Those who reported having received vocal training in the workplace were at significantly lower risk of developing physiological voice problems. This study has identified the factors predisposing call centre workers to physiological and musculoskeletal voice problems, and has demonstrated a significant relationship between vocal health and medical and psychosocial health in these workers. The research has highlighted implications for vocal health and occupational safety, with recommendations for preventive care and further research.

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