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New research centre for occupational health proposed

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Government and employers should fund a new institute to provide leadership in health and safety research, the Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has urged in a report.


The proposed Centre for Health and Work would work with regulators to be a ‘focal point’ for coordinating research, advice and academic training. It would research which evidence-based interventions are needed to combat risks in the modern world of work.

Professor Ewan McDonald at University of Glasgow, who led the work funded by SOM and HSE, said that: “Most of the research centres which have studied work-related diseases and ill health have closed over the past 40 years and there are fewer academics trained in this field.”

The Value of Occupational Health research report says that there is a general view that ‘occupational diseases are a thing of the past’. It makes the case that, in the same way OH research has helped tackle cancer, asbestos and exposures to hazardous substances, it must be given the support to address new issues.

New health challenges it says include multi-morbidity and maintaining function in an ageing population, sickness presenteeism and keeping people healthy and in work.

The report makes 12 recommendations. As well as a new centre, it says occupational advice should be available to all workers, with just 45 per cent of workers currently having access to advice. It also calls for a national OH research strategy and to train new OH researchers with appropriate resourcing.

Recommendations follow the Department for Work and Pensions consultation in December 2017, which revealed that employers feel the current model of OH provision is failing. DWP has appointed an ‘expert working group’ to come up with new ideas, but this is not expected until 2020.

Most research centres which have studied work-related diseases have closed over the past 40 years

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