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Studies and Research

INRS Studies & Research generate new and scientifically-validated knowledge, methods and tools to develop solutions to prevent occupational accidents and diseases.

Within the framework of INRS’s 2018-2022 strategic plan, research breaks down into four prevention programmes supplemented by focus topics.

Biological risk prevention programme

Many activity sectors (healthcare, agrifood, waste/recycling, etc.) expose employees to biological agents (bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc.) which can cause occupational diseases: infections, poisoning, allergies and even cancers, which it is necessary to contain.

Study and research goals
  • Design methods for assessing and measuring biological exposure to more precisely identify the agents to which employees are exposed, with the aim of proposing indicators and contributing to the definition of guideline values, or even occupational exposure limit values.

  • Identify the biological agents present in new processes and sectors, to define the emissivity and the impact on employees’ health.

  • Conduct performance and efficacy tests for collective and personal protective systems, and if necessary, explore avenues for improvement.

  • Set up methods for determining the sensitising potential of certain biological agents.

Other strategies are implemented to closely map exposure and to establish recommendations suited to prevention needs. Work aims to develop methods to measure workers’ exposure to microorganisms or the molecules they produce, such as mycotoxins, endotoxins and bioaerosols, as well as methods to assess the health effects.

Chemical risk prevention programme

The work conducted by INRS over the last few years has enabled chemical risk to be better taken into account in the workplace. However, while exposure levels have dropped in general, and hazard awareness has improved, chemicals are still very present in the work environment and some exposures are still unknown. Different goals will be pursued to expand knowledge. 

Study and research goals
  • Develop methods for identifying substances that are hazardous to employees’ health and prevent the risks beforehand.
  • Contribute to progress in machine and process design by improving the incorporation of pollutant emission limits or treatment at the source. 
  • Reinforce the consideration of poly-exposure.
  • Ensure that collective and personal protective equipment is suited to chemical risks, and that they remain effective over time.

Work conducted on chemical risks also reflects specific occupational health and safety concerns, for which targeted actions are undertaken. It involves, in particular, carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) substances, occupational allergies, asbestos and fibres, nanoparticles and ultrafine particles and endocrine disruptors.

Physical and mechanical risk prevention programme

Changes in technology, manufacturing processes and industrialisation methods warrant continuous efforts to prevent physical hazards and mechanical risks. The goals are to facilitate exposure assessment by proposing methods and tools to businesses faced with the risks caused by these technologies, as well as to support the application of regulatory measures to ensure protection of employees (Euratom and electromagnetic fields directives, etc.).

Study and research goals
  • Continue to develop easy-to-use exposure measurement devices for OSH practitioners out in the field and for occupational health services. 
  • Pursue work on matters related to physical hazards (radiation, lasers, etc.), workplaces (lighting, noise), the use of machines or hazardous equipment (lifting apparatus, cranes, forklifts, detection and protection systems, etc.).
  • Contribute to standardisation efforts in the field.

Actions more specific to each physical and mechanical hazard are undertaken, in order to support, at all levels, players required to ensure compliance with exposure limit values and to mitigate all risks related to work processes and equipment. This work addresses exposure to different physical hazards: thermal environments, noise, falls, vibration, electromagnetic fields, optical radiation, and collective and personal protective equipment.

Programme for prevention of risks related to work organisation and situations

The organisation and design of workplaces and work situations play a major role in occupational risk prevention, both in terms of exposure to certain risk factors and in terms of the company’s health and safety management policy.

Study and research goals
  • Assess company practices regarding strategic and managerial prevention actions to promote occupational health and safety, based on studies on prevention players, tools and practices, aimed at introducing and facilitating a culture of prevention in the work environment,
  • Analyse organisational and manufacturing methods, configuration of the workplace, circulation of goods, management of outside operations and maintenance operations in order to improve occupational risk prevention,
  • Analyse processes for designing work situations which may in fact harbour levers that could lead to the adoption of a prevention approach as from the design stage.

Studies and research concerning work organisation are carried out with a goal to develop prevention solutions which can be adopted by players. The projects address organisation of prevention and the culture of prevention, the perception and representation of risk, design of workplaces and work situations, the impact of new forms of employment on health and safety, including outsourcing, temporary work contracts, jobs involving atypical hours. Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders, psychosocial risks, addictions, as well as prevention of occupational accidents (including road risk) are addressed specifically. Risks related to maintenance activities, and those encountered in the transport and logistics sector are also covered. Ageing, job retention and return to work matters are also main concerns.

Focus topic : Industry of the future and prevention

The industry of the future concept is based on the modernisation of industrial facilities and the change in economic model brought about by digitalisation. The emergence of new technologies (Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, collaborative and mobile robotics, drones, 3D printing, augmented reality, etc.) granted the opportunity for more flexible production systems, particularly by paving the way for the creation of connected and reconfigurable manufacturing cells. Companies are undergoing transformations in terms of design, organisation and marketing, which raises questions about the integration of occupational risk prevention, both from an engineering point of view and in terms of human factors.

2018-2022 study and research goals

Acquire knowledge in engineering and human and social sciences for a better integration of prevention in the industry of the future concept:

  • Evaluate the changes generated by digital tools
  • Decipher the characteristics of the industry of the future.

Focus topic : Reproduction and work

Studying the links between work and reproductive disorders means assessing the potential effects of work on fertility, pregnancy and the development of the child. This is how several studies in different professional sectors associated certain male and female occupational exposure with the timeframe for conceiving. Every year, 560,000 children are born of mothers that are employed during their pregnancy. While most pregnancies are smooth with the majority of children being born and remaining in good health, some of them have complications of various origins.

2018-2022 study and research goals
  • Consider the impact of work on reproduction by a multi-risk approach: chemical, physical, organisational.
  • Intervene in specific sectors to assess the reality of exposure.

Focus topic : Impact of information and communication technologies

Amidst an unprecedented technology boom and unparalleled economic competition, the implementation of innovative solutions to collect, store and transmit information has profoundly changed work environments and organisations. The progress brought by information and communication technologies has also modified professional relationships. These uses have consequences on the health and safety of employees, on occupational risk prevention strategies, and on the role of staff representatives.

2018-2022 study and research goals

Continue to acquire knowledge about the issues raised by these technological changes:

  • Evaluate the consequences in terms of occupational risks.
  • Discuss practices and uses for employees’ well-being.

Focus topic : Poly-exposure at work

Work situations hardly ever expose employees to just one risk. Most work environments contribute to multiple exposures whose effects are not always known. They may be independent or jointly affect the same target organ. It is possible that the consequences of these poly-exposures are greater than the sum of exposures considered individually if synergies exist. Better knowing and assessing the impact of poly-exposure will serve to identify work situations for which implementation of specific prevention measures should be prioritised.

2018-2022 study and research goals
  • Detect the hazards for employees exposed to a combination of risks
  • Identify the sectors concerned by poly-exposure and assess their impacts
  • Develop new tools and methods to estimate potential health risks.
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Last update on 19/11/2021