(February 8, 2001, Gazette)
health and safety
The Canadian Institutes of Health
Research has announced $2.1 million for a five-year multidisciplinary
research program based at Memorial University that will study
and identify ways to promote marine and coastal workplace health
and safety. The program will be administered through the Newfoundland
and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research, which is located
at Memorials Faculty of Medicine and was set up in March
2000 with the aid of $500,000 from the provincial Department
of Health and Community Services.
The co-directors of the program are Dr. Stephen Bornstein, a
professor in the Department of Political Science and director
of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research,
and Dr. Barbara Neis, associate professor in the Department of
Work in marine and coastal occupations in Atlantic Canada
is notoriously dangerous and risky, but comparatively little
research has been done on the occupational accidents and diseases
faced by workers employed in these activities, said Dr.
Axel Meisen, president of Memorial. This major funding
from CIHR is wonderful news; it will allow some very important
research to be done on issues of direct and urgent concern to
the people of this province.
Julie Bettney, acting minister of health and community services,
says the $2.1 million grant is great news for the fledgling research
institute. It represents an excellent return on our initial
investment. It comes because of partnerships developed with the
provincial government, the university, health boards and community
organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Bornstein explained that the program involves nine interrelated
research projects in key aspects of Atlantic economic activity
four on fisheries, two on oil and gas, and three on exposures
to cold air and cold water associated with work in either or
both of these sectors.
The projects in fisheries include occupational asthma in snow
crab processing, cumulative trauma disorders in snow crab processing,
fishing vessel safety, and risks and prevention in fibreglass-reinforced
boat building and repair. In the oil and gas sector, the two
projects involve the health implications of offshore work schedules
and occupational health and safety in petroleum refining. The
projects examining work in cold air and cold water involve studies
on surface exposure to cold, human cognition during exposure
to cold, and work in cold deep-sea conditions.
This research will be done through a unique and innovative
network of collaboration involving the university, the provincial
government, the workplace health safety and compensation commission,
unions and employers in Newfoundland, as well as researchers
and partner organizations in a number of other provinces,
said Dr. Neis. We hope to use this funding not just to
do some specific pieces of research over the next five years,
but in addition to develop the infrastructure and expertise to
attract ongoing funding for research on workplace health and
safety issues in future decades.
The research projects will not only add to the scientific understanding
of a particular set of workplace illnesses and accidents, but
are also designed to result in evidence-based practical recommendations
for innovations in diagnostic and therapeutic methods, in regulatory
regimes, and in approaches to training health professionals,
workers and managers. The five-year program is also crucial
to the ability of the Centre for Applied Health Research to develop
a self-sustaining capacity for interdisciplinary and intersectoral
research/policy on workplace health and safety issues relevant
to the Atlantic region and to an expanding range of economic
sectors, said Dr. Bornstein.
The Marine and Coastal Workplace Health and Safety Program is
funded under the CIHRs competition, Community Alliances
for Health Research, announced by federal Health Minister Alan
Rock in October, 2000. A total of 178 teams applied; a short
list of 40 teams was asked to submit full applications and 19
of these have now been funded. The money for Memorials
project will be distributed in annual grants of about $422,000
over five years.
Drs. Bornstein and Neis noted that a substantial portion of the
funding will be used to support the training of graduate students
and postdoctoral fellows in various aspects of workplace health
and safety research. One interesting component of our research
program will be collaboration between university-based researchers
and the staff of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation
Commission of Newfoundland; each research project will generate
a set of specialized training modules for workers and managers
in local and regional workplaces.
The Centre for Applied Health Research is an independent research
institute which reports to a board representing the university,
the Department of Health and Community Services, the St. Johns
Health Care Corporation, and public interest and community organizations.