IOM is an organisation with a great history and unlimited potential for the future.
We have been at the forefront of scientific research to understand and mitigate a range of occupational and environmental health risks. These include coal dust, asbestos, carbon nanotubes and air pollution.
The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) was founded as a research charity in 1969 by the National Coal Board, primarily to complete ground-breaking research on lung disease in coal mine workers. However, our scope of work developed and ergonomic factors advanced, and ultimately we established a mission to reduce health and safety risks in the industry. The critical research led to an understanding that coal mining not only caused the specific disease known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis but also led to an increased risk of chronic obstructive lung disease, a condition commonly caused by tobacco smoking.
We also made important advances in understanding how asbestos causes disease, leading to the establishment of methods for assessing possible hazard from substitute fibrous materials.
Following the steep decline of the coal industry in the UK and retracted funding from NCB, our future survival was in a vulnerable position. To secure long-term survival, we expanded our research range and carefully considered a commercial model focused on turning our research into best practice workplace services. In 1990, we were able to re-launch as a self-funding, fully independent research charity.
As well as covering the United Kingdom and Ireland, our work takes us across the world into Asia, North and South America, Africa and continental Europe.
From early 2005, we became a leading player in Europe into collaborative research related to the safety of nano-sized materials, developing an leading a series of projects. We also established SAFENANO, funded by the UK Government, as the first centre of excellence to support and de-risk emerging industrial applications of nanomaterials.
In 2012, we successfully opened our first overseas office in Singapore. Our presence in Singapore would be a staging post for further expansion in Asia where it was clear that there was a great need for our expertise to improve the prevailing working conditions.
In 2019, we celebrated 50 years of IOM. We have evolved and changed in many ways but the two founding questions from our original research on lung disease in coal workers can be generalised as;
- How much and what kinds of exposure cause health effects?
- What levels of exposure need to be maintained to prevent health effects occurring?
It's these two questions that still define our purpose and why we exist as an organisation today.
“Our purpose is to improve people’s health and safety at work, at home and in the environment through excellent independent science to create a healthy and sustainable world”.