Workplace Health & Wellbeing

Our Workplace Health and Wellbeing Research theme encompasses all of our research activity on measurement and modelling of occupational exposure to hazardous agents, occupational epidemiology, work-related health impact assessment, toxicology of dusts, ergonomic stressors and related diseases or ill-health, psychosocial risks and a number of other areas. The breadth of our activities reflects the long-standing importance of this theme to IOM's research and the diverse multi-disciplinary staff base working on these topics. 

Workplace cancer

IOM have been researching the theme of work-related cancers for over 40 years and we have some of the foremost scientific experts on this subject within our organisation. There is increasing recognition, understanding and preventive measures being introduced as a result of a great deal of the published work by IOM on behalf of UK government and EU bodies with cancers are the very core of IOM’s broad ranging workplace health research. As more people survive cancer and its treatment, the numbers of people returning to work after cancer is increasing. IOM has been involved in developing guidance to support safety and health professionals manage return to work for this group.

Mechanisms of disease  

Our focus for investigation of the hazards due to chemicals is primarily through modelling studies of the properties of materials that determine potential health effects in the body. We develop mathematical models of the distribution of hazardous chemicals in the body, the impact of exposure levels and the processes leading to disease.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE, such as respirators and protective clothing, often plays a key role in protection in the workplace.  We have made many significant contributions to this field, especially in relation to ergonomic aspects of their use and assessment of the overall effectiveness of PPE. With our testing facilities in Edinburgh we are able to undertake stringent analysis of PPE and bring this understanding to different industries and exposure conditions within our research work. We have particular experience in respect of PPE for the emergency services such as BA, firekit, flashhoods, and CBRN ensembles.   However, more industrial applications have also featured, including hearing protection, fall-arrest harnesses, and RPE.

Healthy ageing

With the extension of working lives across many sectors and countries, it is vital to have a better understanding of the impact that ageing can have on work. In taking a life course approach we need to understand the work and conditions that employers must consider to enable a safe and healthy working life from joining the workforce to a successful transition into longer working years for employees. Our research has focused on the evidence-base to provide support and guidance to employers in how to manage older workers. 

IOM’s healthy ageing research programme is based on our scientific understanding of the impact that ageing has on ability to work and our knowledge of functional capacity assessment and fitness for work assessment. It extends beyond the working years as we understand how to create working environments that also support healthy retirement.

Chemical exposures

Hazardous substances, whether they are gases, liquids, vapours or dusts, are potentially harmful to worker health. We are at the forefront of research to find new and better ways of assessing these exposures in the workplace.  

Information on IOM's ECPA Project is available here.

The effects of work on health

Our epidemiological research provides reliable information about health effects and risks. This information can help address the concerns of industry and the public, and provides a scientific basis for measures to limit disease. We have a strong interest in understanding the causes of occupational cancer and respiratory disease.

Sickness absence recording

We have developed software tools for the recording of sickness absence information in a consistent way that can be easily analysed and interpreted. See our Sickness Absence Recording Tool (SART) microsite.

Neurodegenerative Disease in Sportpersons

We are involved in assessing the impact of concussion on general and cognitive health in former elite rugby players. We also have a keen interest in understanding the exposures associated with subconcussive head impacts due to heading footballs in former professional footballers.