IOM study selected to tackle Coronavirus and its impact.


The study will evaluate the effectiveness of novel workplace interventions in protecting healthcare workers from infection.

Healthcare workers are at high risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 during the current pandemic and are generally at higher risk of disease by respiratory pathogens in general. 


Hand-to-mouth or mucous membrane contacts may infect them, direct droplet spatter from coughs and sneezes and inhalation of fine droplets of lung fluids. However, there is little evidence about the concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air or on surfaces in hospitals and other healthcare settings, which makes it difficult to judge the relative importance of these routes and hence the best way to protect healthcare workers effectively. 

Our research will collect air and surface contamination data from hospitals along with information about infection risk behaviours of staff, for example, touching potentially contaminated surfaces and then touching their face. 

Data will model the routes by which the virus can infect workers mathematically. This model will then be used to explore the effectiveness of various novel intervention strategies designed to protect workers, such as the treatment of surfaces from reducing survival of the virus, use of localised and room filtration ventilation, use of surgical masks or respirators and other measures. 

The Rapid Research in COVID-19 funding call was launched by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office on 25 March 2020. Successful applicants were chosen by an independent expert panel, co-chaired by Professor Eleanor Davies from the University of Glasgow and Professor Shaun Treweek from the University of Aberdeen.

The project wills start right away and will be complete within a six-month timeframe. 

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Scotland is home to some of the most respected researchers and scientists in the world. COVID-19 is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes, and it is vital that we capture the potential of the extraordinarily strong research base here to contribute to the global efforts to tackle and mitigate the impact of it.  

“I know many academics are already thinking about how their research can be used during this national and international emergency. This funding enables universities and research institutions to immediately draw on the very best science and methodologies available to build on our understanding of this virus, develop new treatments, stop the infection and support people’s mental and physical health.” 

About the Author
Prof John Cherrie Associate

John is an Associate at IOM and Emeritus Professor at the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot Watt University. He is a former President of the British Occupational Hygiene Society. His research interests include human exposure assessment, environmental and occupational epidemiology, natural and synthetic fibres – including asbestos, dermal exposure to chemicals and dermatitis, and particulate air pollution. He also prepares medico-legal reports in relation to dust and chemical exposures, particularly to do with workplace cancer risks and occupationally-related neurodegenerative disease.

Contact Details:


  • BSc
  • PhD

Committee and Society Memberships:

  • Workplace Health Expert Committee – HSE
  • British Occupational Hygiene Society
  • Member of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council
  • Member of the Editorial Board for the Annals of Workplace Exposures and Health
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the Open access International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Research Interests:

John has a wide range of research interests, which include:-

  • Exposure science and the exposome
  • Occupational and environmental epidemiology
  • Health impact assessment
  • Occupational carcinogens
  • Exposure modelling
  • Dermal exposure to chemicals
  • Occupational causes of neurodegenerative disease
  • Air pollution