A New Health and Safety Service for Industry

Publication Date01 March 1982
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb057238
Pages14-15
AuthorJames Bridges
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
A New Health and Safety
Service for Industry
by James Bridges*
Management has both a moral and a legal duty to ensure
the health and safety of all its employees and others pre-
sent in the company's premises. These commitments
should not be regarded purely as yet another burden added
to the load of management, for good health and safety
policies sensibly applied can significantly improve labour
relations, reduce absenteeism and enhance productivity.
Management also has a responsibility for the health and
safety aspects of the company's products and for the safe
disposal of unwanted by-products of production. In order
to cope adequately with the health and safety facets of its
responsibilities management needs to be able to call on a
very wide range of expertise; only the largest companies
can hope to have sufficient expertise in-house.
The Robens Institute of Industrial and Environmental
Health and Safety was founded a couple of
years
ago at the
University of Surrey to provide a multi-disciplinary
organisation capable of responding to the many varied
practical health and safety problems facing industry. The
Institute draws its strength from the considerable ex-
perience in health and safety research and teaching of the
University's Academic Departments.
The association of Lord Robens' name with the Institute
is particularly appropriate for he was the University's
Chancellor for ten years and Chairman of the Committee
whose report led to the introduction of the Health and
Safety at Work etc Act in 1974. Lord Robens has a vast ex-
perience of British Industry and his guidance is invaluable
to the Institute.
To ensure that the Institute remains an independent
organisation and directs itself
to
real health and safety pro-
blems the Institute's activities are governed by a Commit-
tee which includes senior representatives of Industry, the
Health and Safety Executive, the Department of Health
and Social Security and the trade unions. An important
feature of the Institute's activities is the information, ad-
visory and investigative service which it offers and which
covers a wide range of
expertise.
The type of service we of-
fer may be illustrated by citing a recent problem, typical of
a number we have tackled:
Staff in the Photographic Department of a printing
company complained of the frequent occurrence of sore
throats and tightness of the chest, particularly during
the summer months. A team from the Institute visited
the company and identified fumes coming through the
open windows of the Photographic Department from
other parts of the factory as a likely cause of the pro-
blem. To determine which of the various possible
sources of fume was responsible, analysis was carried
out of those chemicals in the air entering the Depart-
ment which were considered most likely to produce the
symptoms experienced by the Photographic
Staff.
As a
result, chromium coming from a nearby extractor outlet
was identified as the probable causative factor and
modification to the extractor stack advised, which
resulted in the complete disappearance of the symp-
toms.
To handle such a problem requires specialists in occupa-
tional hygiene, occupational health, organic and inorganic
analysis and ventilation technology backed by an informa-
tion service.
Good health and safety policies
sensibly applied can significantly
improve labour relations
The Institute at present has six specialist Units and can
also call on expertise in other Department of the Universi-
ty. Two of our Units are concerned with analysis. One
serves as a Supraregional metal analysis group for the Na-
tional Health Service and carries out dozens of analyses for
hospitals and factories all over the country. The Unit has
made lead, mercury and cadmium, analysis a particular
speciality. The other analytical Unit is particularly involv-
ed with measuring airborne contaminants ranging from in-
dustrial solvents to asbestos. A third Unit is concerned
with toxicology, carrying out research on the development
of new methods for assessing toxicity of chemicals, par-
ticularly those which do not involve the use of experimen-
tal animals and with evaluating the toxicity of individual
chemicals on the request of industry. Present contracts in-
clude tracking down the chemicals which may be responsi-
ble for an increased incidence of disease in a manufacturer
of polymers and the assessment of the actual hazard to
man of a drug which is widely used and has recently been
reported to produce chronic disease in experimental
animals.
A fourth Unit is extending an already successful col-
laborative programme with Vickers Medical Ltd which
resulted in the commercial development of isolators for
nursing or moving patients with highly infectious diseases
such as Lassa fever or for keeping patients susceptible to
infection in a germ-free environment. This Unit is now
concerned with designing and producing low cost flexible
film isolators for containing potentially hazardous
materials. Among the current projects is the development
of equipment to contain mercury fumes in a battery
manufacturer's plant and the design of isolators for an
*Professor James Bridges, holder of the only chair in Toxicology in the
UK, is the Director of the new Robens Institute for Industrial and En-
vironmental Health and Safety at the University of Surrey, Guildford,
Surrey.
14 INDUSTRIAL MANAGEMENT + DATA SYSTEMS

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