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Carl Sagan , American astronomer

Building capacity in workplace health and safety research

{Dr. Barbara Neis and Dr. Steven Bornstein}
Dr. Barbara Neis and Dr. Steven Bornstein, co-directors of SafetyNet

An interdisciplinary capacity enhancement (ICE) grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research will allow SafetyNet to help develop an East Coast Consortium on Workplace Health and Safety in collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke and the IRSST (Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail) in Montreal, the research arm of the workers compensation board in Quebec.

The five-year grant of $200,000 per year also includes partial funding for a chair in workplace health and safety to be located at Memorial University. The chair will be co-funded by private sector matching funds.

Drs. Barbara Neis and Stephen Bornstein, co-directors of SafetyNet, are the principal applicants for the grant. Dr. Neis said that the collaboration will initially be with the IRSST team and the School of Business at the Université de Sherbrooke, which is interested in knowledge translation and workplace health and safety. "In the long term we will use the five years of funding in part to build a fuller eastern Canadian consortium with stronger linkages to the University of New Brunswick, St. Mary's University, the University of Prince Edward Island and so on," said Dr. Neis.

Part of the funding will also be used to fund a chair in knowledge translation at the Université de Sherbrooke, with matching funds provided directly by that university. Other funding will be used for postdoctoral support and retraining researchers in the area of health and safety.

Dr. Neis said that pilot projects funded by the ICE grant will include partnerships with new researchers in other Atlantic provinces.

"This will broaden the network of researchers and the disciplinary areas we're covering, and also broaden the fields we're working on. Until now it's been primarily fisheries and oil and gas, but this will let us move into forestry and mining safety. The idea is to use research to address workplace health and safety problems here; a lot of research in this area has been done in Quebec, but hasn't been transferred to English Canada."

Dr. Bornstein said that one difficulty in translating research done in Quebec to Newfoundland workplace situations is that the structure of industry is different in the two provinces.

"In order to get an idea that we know has worked in Quebec to work here, we have to translate it not only in linguistic terms but also into Newfoundland-relevant organizational and administrative terms. We'll be looking at some programs for injury prevention or rehabilitation that were developed in Quebec by teams at IRSST or the Université de Sherbrooke, that worked well there and that they regard as big successes - we'll bring them here and see what it takes to apply them successfully. It's a knowledge transfer/translation activity."

Dr. Neis said the ICE grant will fund research that is part of a longer-term objective of building research capacity in workplace health and safety in the region, and linking that research to workplaces and policy makers. "For the most part there has been very little research in the field of injury prevention and compensation - at least part of the reason for this is that people in Atlantic Canada have often perceived it as being a choice between jobs and safety."

SafetyNet is a community research alliance studying health and safety issues in marine and coastal work environments. With $2.1 million funding from the CIHR, SafetyNet has formed a community research alliance operating under the umbrella of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research. The alliance consists of nine inter-related research projects in fisheries, oil and gas, and cold working conditions.

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}