NEWS: HSE to use human factors to design interventions to combat lung disease

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HSE’s insight programme will aim to ‘turn the dial’ on occupational lung disease that causes 13,000 workers to die each year in Britain, it was heard at the Healthy Lung Summit last week.

At HSE's Workplace Healthy Lung summit held on 22 November in London, it was heard how the death toll for work-related cancer has remained unchanged for a decade. It was also heard that 77 per cent of lung cancer admissions to hospital are unrelated to smoking.

Martin Friar, deputy director of insight at HSE, said that however shocking and emotive these figures were, he was there to try to explain how HSE and its network could move beyond awareness and knowledge: “Awareness is an essential precondition to change. But there are many human factors too,” he said.

HSE’s new insight work is to ‘understand what are effective and efficient modes for behaviour change’ he said.

The team has selected five sectors on which to focus; construction, stone work, woodwork, quarries, steel welding and bakeries, based on the prevalence of risk, he explained.

He showed a video of initial fieldwork in some of these sectors that has seen independent researchers go into workplaces, then conduct a set of structured interviews with site managers and their employees to see how they view health and safety.

Welding is one of the five sectors HSE has targeted to develop interventions to influence better decision making when looking after health. Photograph: iStock

A baker is shown to be reluctant to look at all the information on risks from flour dust, because it would take ‘too long’. A welder knows the risks of welding fumes but is prepared to take the risk to get the job done. Equally, there were examples seen of positive attitudes to health and good practice.

“This work intends to better understand what drives decisions and what people think and do. It’s not a sectoral league table of good versus bad," he said. 

“We wanted to delve into what makes good practice and what makes bad, bad,” he explained. 

The next phase, taking place from January 2018, will see HSE ‘co-designing’ interventions in these sectors.

Using the information from the field work stage, HSE will workshop interventions to influence better behaviours on managing health risks from lung disease with its stakeholder network and members of the Healthy Lung Partnership. HSE will then take those ideas the participants in the research.

"We will come up with an approach and that approach will give us the opportunity to talk with some of the participants to look in real practical terms if this is going to make a difference.

"What I love about this work is this is led by the people doing the work, it’s fundamentally about worker involvement, about trying to understand from the employer perspective and the worker perspective what actually happens on the ground and using that to shape and guide our approach,"he told Safety Management.

Work will also be used to develop communications and 'new campaign content'. "The really good work that’s been done is largely in raising awareness – what they will be doing is working on really specific interventions to work out where is it that we’d achieve most effectively and what are the messages, what are the conditions that we are trying to promote, to tip people into the right decision."

“How do we turn the dial? That’s not just an HSE thing it’s about all of you [in the health system] to improve conditions,” he added.

The project is part of HSE's Helping Britain work well strategy, the five year outreach plan that aims to tackle the burden of ill health with the help of others by, for example, promoting broader ownership of health and safety in Britain, and supporting small employers with the advice they need to stay healthy at work.


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