Studies and Research
INRS Studies & Research generates new and scientifically-validated knowledge, methods and tools to develop solutions to prevent occupational accidents and diseases.
Fields covered include physical, mechanical, chemical, biological and psychosocial risks. Researchers are specialised in chemistry, physics, mechanics, biology, toxicology, metrology, process engineering, epidemiology, sociology, psychology, ergonomics, physiology and biomechanics.
Accidentology and Prevention Culture
One of the objectives of INRS in terms of accidentology is to incorporate safety as far upstream of work situations as possible, through systems for managing occupational safety and health, and by developing a culture of prevention in companies.
INRS Studies & Research activities on this topic have two focuses :
- establishing new methods of understanding and assessing accident risks ; and
- developing strategies for reducing the overly high accident rate among newly hired staff.
On this topic, Studies & Research activities are focused on the following:
- developing tools for measuring exposure and effects so as to better identify risk substances; and
- identifying the determining factors that contribute to exposures to allergy risks.
Research conducted by INRS aims to improve methods of performing diagnostic surveys to locate sources of noise, and to study new acoustic materials and hearing protection devices. Another focus is on the understanding and perception of messages in open-plan workplaces and the influence on the hearing comfort or discomfort of workers.
INRS is acting in various areas to contribute to the prevention of vibration-related risks. It is developing tools for assisting in measurement-free assessment (calculator, database, etc.). In the field of hand-arm vibration, work is being done to model and experimentally characterise the propagation of vibration emitted by handheld machinery. As regards whole-body vibration, research on co-factors (efforts, posture) focuses on developing knowledge about this co-exposure at the driver stations of vibrating mobile plants or vehicles.
As regards electromagnetic fields, we need to assess real exposure, characterise sources, identify prevention means, develop technical solutions which reduce exposure, and raise awareness in users.
As regards optical radiation, INRS studies are continuing with a view to defining a methodology for assessing risks in situ and for assessing protective means.
Others aim to accompany the implementation of the decree on protecting workers from risks related to artificial optical radiation.
Design of Work Equipment, Workplaces, and Work Situations
Beyond compliance with regulatory requirements, the “integrated prevention” approach enables designers, company managers, and OSH players to anticipate occupational risks and better keep them under control, while also reconciling the technical, organisational, and economic demands of their projects. The issue at stake is to apply, as early as possible, safe design principles to equipment projects (for machines, tools, etc.) and workplaces (buildings, workshops, etc.).
The INRS studies concern both the methodological approach and also the design tools.
Other work studies software tools or “digital manikins” that enable designers to simulate
various scenarios for future work situations, and check compliance with physical ergonomics principles (anthropometry, posture, effort, stability, etc.).
Waste and Recycling
Studies & Research activities contribute to designing and organising waste-related industries (collection, sorting, dismantling, depolluting, treating, recycling and recovering or transforming) by including a health and safety component, in particular by analysing certain organisational processes, characterising methods in emerging and/or existing sectors, and assessing levels of exposure of workers. INRS is also focusing on developing solutions for preventing risks for/ effects on worker health. In particular, such solutions are adapted to the specificities of the waste recycling and recovery/ transformation sector, the construction and civil engineering sector, and the polluted soil treatment sector.
Multiple Exposures: Chemicals and Noise
The work of INRS is aimed at:
- identifying the risks run by employees exposed to combinations of harmful/pollutant factors (e.g. noise and chemicals), and assessing their potential effects;
- developing new tools capable of taking multiple exposures into account (databases, physiological and pharmacokinetic models, biomonitoring, protective equipment, screening, epidemiology, etc.); and
- assessing the relevance of Occupational Exposure Limit Values OELVs, in particular when doses are small.
INRS action on manufactured nanomaterials has three objectives:
- making knowledge on hazards available to the working world;
- designing tools for identifying, characterising, and measuring occupational exposures; and
- proposing risk prevention approaches and tools for firms and laboratories that produce or handle these materials.
Organisation, Health and Safety at Work
INRS studies focus on three organisational dimensions of health and safety: company organisation, production organisation, and prevention organisation. These dimensions of work organisation go from tool, system and work process design to human resources management and issues of occupational safety and health. Two lines of research are being taken:
- developing new organisation modes, new workforce management modes, and new information and communications systems, whether it be for Lean Management, subcontracting, or for Information and Communications Technologies in networked companies;
- changing roles and responsibilities in new trades, new sectors, and new forms of work design or of division of labour, including the roles of designers and management on site.
Prevention of Occupational Cancers
The research work on this topic is aimed at:
- improving prevention of all types of occupational cancer, and in particular assessing the appropriateness of using early-effect markers following exposure to carcinogens;
- initiating and accompanying companies in preventing asbestos risks;
- studying the perception of carcinogenic risks.
Reproduction and Work
INRS research programmes help identify certain hazards which have potential impacts on pregnancy, by improving the state of experimentally acquired toxicological knowledge about chemicals, and in particular about phthalates. Other studies focus on identifying risk situations and on gathering data about relationships between occupational exposure of the mother and pathology in the child.
In the absence of occupational exposure limit values (OELVs), INRS research work focuses in particular on:
- developing approaches for assessing the immunoallergic and toxinic risks related to exposure to airborne agents of biological origin;
- developing methods and strategies for measuring (sampling and analysing) bioaerosols, such methods and strategies being transferable to those involved in the prevention of such risks;
- acquiring methods for assessing the quality of indoor air;
- studying means for reducing exposure to bioaerosols.
Chemical risks have been studied at INRS since it was founded. The work continues through studies on new substances (including substitute products), metrology, bio-indicators, influences on health, epidemiology, improving and developing processes, developing prevention techniques, etc with 3 focuses:
- making knowledge on hazards available
- making knowledge available on the state of exposure and making tools available for evaluating exposure
- making prevention solutions available.
Mechanical risks and new technologies for accident prevention
INRS is playing a major part in preventing mechanical risks by:
- continuing the work aimed at making work equipment safer, thus contributing to developing safe control systems;
- making criteria available for choosing and using prevention systems based on new technologies; and
- studying the real performance levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to improve use of such equipment.
The scientific work by INRS on this topic is aimed in particular at:
- giving companies and OSH specialists tools for diagnosing psychosocial risks (PSRs) and new methods of preventing PSRs;
- studying the effects of new organisational factors and new constraints on physical and mental health, and mechanisms for regulating such effects;
- exploring work factors favourable to health construction;
- developing tools for objectifying factors in PSRs.
Occupational Road Accident Risk
In addition to prevention actions carried out in collaboration with the French National Health Insurance Fund for Salaried Employees (CNAM-TS) and with various trades associations, INRS is studying the health effects of using a motor vehicle (excluding accidents) on employees for whom driving is part of their job.
The results of prior research into the interior design of light commercial vehicles are enabling tests (industrial interior design in the event of emergency braking or impact) to be transformed into prevention solutions, for vehicle manufacturers and vehicle interior designers.
Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Limbs and of the Back
Action undertaken for MSDs and low-back pain is conducted in synergy with numerous partners (institutional players or research organisations). They involve ergonomics, biomechanics, and design of work equipment and of workstations.
As regards research, INRS proposes:
- to assess and adapt intervention strategies to various contexts (taking a sociological approach by targeting small and medium-sized enterprises in particular);
- to develop methods and tools which incorporate the most recent knowledge on relationships between organisation, psychosocial factors, biomechanical factors, and MSDs, and transfer them to OSH specialists and managers on site; and
- to include MSD prevention principles in the process of designing work situations (gestural variation, less demanding tools, etc.).
Ageing, Staying in Employment, and Preventing Occupational Exclusion
INRS studies and research in this field have three focuses:
- putting together strategies for raising awareness in companies about the issue of ageing at work;
- acting on factors responsible for premature ageing (approach for assessing risk factors, and adapting working situations for older workers);
- establishing positive and negative determinants between career and health on the basis of various parameters: socio-professional category, sector of activity, working conditions, career changes or interruptions, unfitness for work, changes in physical functional capacities, etc.).
Studies and Research report