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The mission of the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre is to foster the development of a university wide focus for research activity in the area of the work environment, health and safety, work and well-being, rehabilitation and related subjects and provide an authoritative source of expert advice on these topics. It promotes research locally, nationally and internationally through undertaking specific research projects and disseminating their results through seminars, workshops, conferences and the publication of working papers.

Support for the continued research work of the Centre is sought from research councils, government departments, and elsewhere. We are also keen to collaborate with others to undertake major cross cutting research across the range of expertise represented by the Centre, that is can make a useful contribution to a better understanding of the work environment and contribute to the improvement of health, safety and well-being at work.


Current projects

Gender Responsive Occupational Safety and Health Policy: An Exploratory Study of Gender Needs and Gender Sensitive Indicators - (funded by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education)

Both men and women have roles in the spheres of production (of goods and services) and public life. The proportion of economically active women has increased dramatically in the world and according to World Bank estimates, from 1960 to 1997, women have increased their numbers in the global labour force by 126%. Today, women make up about 46.4% of the estimated global working population between the age of 18 to 64 years making them indispensable as contributors to national and global economies. Researchers are arguing that a gendered division of labour is found not only within the household but also in paid employment. This should be good for the women’s health but it does not keep away the hazards they are exposed and the consequences are always belittled. On the other hand, those who choose to join the male dominated profession are exposed to sexual harassment and discrimination and one-size-fits-all requirements. Then, there is a rise in non-standard precarious forms of employment such as short-term contracts and subcontracting and available evidence suggests that as a group, women suffer more from growing competitive pressures and cost-saving strategies, which can be associated with lack of security, limited possibilities for training and career advancement, and inadequate social security coverage in terms of old-age pensions, sickness insurance and maternity protection.

Thus, we are now trying to find out more about these issues by asking those working women and men about their health and safety experiences at work and believe that equal access to health and well-being could be better addressed if a gendered OSH perspective is considered.

Read more about this project


Occupational Safety and Health in the Global Container Ports Industry – (funded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH))

In 2012 the centre carried out a preliminary study into the arrangements for managing health and safety in container terminals in container terminals operated by GNTs. Its findings provided little support for the assumption that the transformation of dock work by containerisation and the changes that have taken place in its ownership have led to significant improvement in the implementation and operation of arrangements to manage health and safety effectively and prevent harm to dockworkers. Rather, the findings were suggestive of several areas of concern, including: the emergent risks associated with restructuring, reorganisation and intensification of work; the adequacy of arrangements and support for preventive occupational health (as opposed to safety); the increased vulnerability of contract workers; an over-concentration of managerial attention on behaviour-based safety management systems leading to possible consequent oversights in the provision of support for preventive occupational health; and weaknesses in arrangements for consultation and representation on health and safety matters. Differences between experiences in terminals operating in advanced and advancing countries were also apparent in many of these areas.

Taking these preliminary study findings as its starting point this project will study the work-related health and safety experiences and issues of dockworkers in container terminals globally, focusing in addition on four related areas of concern identified by the preliminary study:

  • The reasons for differences between OSH experiences among contract workers and directly employed workers in all terminals, and most particularly in terminals in poorer countries
  • The contrast between the comparative commonality of the features of OSH management strategies adopted at global level and the diversity of operational outcomes at the level of the container terminals
  • The reasons for the variation in the role of representation and consultation in the approaches to health and safety management in container terminals globally
  • Strategies for ensuring best practice in health and safety management on terminals that are now multi-employer worksites


The effectiveness of workers’ inspectors: A study of the role of site and industry health and safety representatives in coal mines in Queensland – (funded by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Mining and Energy Division)

Participative arrangements for health and safety management are a common feature of regulatory requirements and standards of good practice applying in most industries and in most countries.  Broadly speaking research on the effectiveness of such arrangements supports the conclusion that they have a positive effect on health and safety outcomes. The regulatory model on which these arrangements are largely based in most countries evolved, with local variations, from that in place in Scandinavian countries in the 1960s, to much greater uptake elsewhere during the 1970s and 1980s and inclusion in international requirements, such as the ILO Convention 155 and the EU Framework Directive 89/391, by the end of the 1980s. However, such statutory arrangements in coal mines in some countries have a separate trajectory of development. In particular those in Australian states, such as Queensland and New South Wales, like the much older UK model on which they are based, have required specific forms of trade union representation on safety that are unique to coal mining. These often have features that are more developed than is provided for by most national general measures on worker representation in OHS. This is of course important in the context of coal mining because of the highly hazardous nature of the work involved and as such there is a persuasive case for these additional measures in the coal mining industry which others have previously made (see for example most recently Gunningham 2007; 2008 and Quinlan 2011). There is a wealth of evidence presented at public inquiries, accident investigations and mines inspectorate guidance in which the role in practice of these trade union representatives and the additional powers vested in them have been commented on extensively and favourably as beneficial to the cause of improved health and safety in mines — a view which is entirely consistent with and supported by the wider research literature on worker representation on health and safety. However, there is no robust research that has evaluated their effects in coal mining in Australia (or in the UK).


The aims of this preliminary study is to review the evidence of the role and activities of check inspectors in Queensland mines with an analysis of documentary data and in-depth interviews with key participants.


Past projects

Analysis of the determinants of workplace occupational safety and health practice in a selection of EU Member States – (funded by European Agency for Safety and Health at Work)

This policy-orientated project examines the impact of features of the environment in which establishments operate upon the way in which they manage occupational health and safety (OHS). The research covers several broad aspects of this environment, including: the style and character of the national regulatory regime for OHS management; the labour relations context of OHS management; key features of social protection systems; and other factors such as national infrastructures for OHS support, economic and political climates, the labour market and structure and organisation of work and relevant aspects of arrangements for training and skills qualification. It forms part of the work following up the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER) and its secondary analyses (in which CWERC was also involved – see Past Projects).


Managing the health and safety of workers in globalised container terminals –(funded by the International Transport Workers' Federation)

This is an indicative study into the arrangements for managing health and safety in container terminals operated by Global Network Terminal (GNT) operators.  Using a mixed methods approach, it examines the nature, extent and effectiveness of policies and arrangement made to manage health and safety.


ESENER - Analysis of the findings of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks on the effectiveness and support for worker representation and consultation on health and safety - (funded by European Agency for Safety and Health at Work)

In 2009 the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) carried out a Europe-wide establishment survey on health and safety at the workplace, the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER). The survey involved approximately 36 000 interviews and covered 31 countries (27 European Union Member States, Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey). Following an initial overview analysis, in 2011 EU-OSHA commissioned a number of secondary analysis projects, one of which focused on worker representation and consultation on health and safety. This study undertook a more detailed analysis of the ESENER data concerning the representation of workers in arrangements for health and safety management and investigated the relationship between the effectiveness of health and safety management measures within enterprises and the involvement of employee representatives in these measures.


NERCLIS - Contract to assess the potential impact of emerging trends and risks on labour inspection methodologies in the domain of occupational health and safety - (funded by the European Commission)

This project assessed the impact of emerging trends and risks on labour inspection methodologies in the domain of occupational health and safety. The work involved a review of the occurrence of new and emerging risks in EU Member States and an examination of the evidence of their impact on labour inspection. A number of significant aspects of labour inspection response were the focus of more detailed examination in a selection of Member States. These aspects were: strategies of labour inspectorates to achieve and co-ordinate greater engagement from stakeholders in health and safety in the ‘new economy’; the selection and training of inspectors in the light of the challenges posed by emergent risks and trends; and the challenge of inspecting health and safety issues in relation to undeclared work.


Supply chain management for health and safety - (funded by IOSH)

This empirical study considered experiences of supply chain mediated influences on health and safety practice and performance in the construction and shipping industries. Using a series of case studies supported by a review of the literature, the project set out to test a set of propositions concerning the conditions and contexts of these influences that was developed in a previous CWERC study on the role of supply chains in influencing health and safety at work.  


Food standards agency project - (funded by the Food Standards Agency)

The Public Inquiry into the September 2005 outbreak of E.coli O157 in South Wales, published in 2009, identified serious breaches of Food Hygiene Regulations as a key cause of the event. It also identified poor food safety culture and inadequate enforcement action as contributory factors to the outbreak. In response, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommended further investigation to fully understand the culture and behaviours in businesses and enforcement bodies, as well as the communication between these two groups that facilitate or inhibit compliance with regulation. To start this work off, the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and CWERC were commissioned by the FSA to conduct an evidence review in this area, with the overall aim of determining “what works‟ in terms of culture and behaviour in securing compliance.


REACH - Analysis of needs and the development of an instrument to help employers, workers and their representatives implement the requirements of REACH in small firms that are downstream users of chemical substances in the EU textiles industry - (funded by the European Commission)

REACH is a European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It came into force on 1st June 2007 and replaced a number of European Directives and Regulations with a single system for regulating the use of chemical substances within the EU. REACH created some new responsibilities for duty-holders among firms that supply and use chemical substances. This project set out to contribute towards helping trade unions and business organisations in the European Union develop appropriate and useful responses to the requirements of REACH. Focusing on the textiles sector, the project: identified the needs of these organisations to help improve social dialogue on chemical risk management in the light of REACH; and developed an instrument aimed at helping to strengthen their capacity to achieve this in smaller textiles firms in EU states. The project, therefore, broadly aimed to improve the expertise of trades union representatives and managers to engage with health and safety aspects of industrial relations occasioned by the introduction of REACH, in particular in relation to achieving these ends in small and medium sized enterprises.


EPSARE — The Effectiveness of Safety Representatives on Occupational Health: A European Perspective: research project undertaken in collaboration with the European Trade Union Institute, Brussels (Funded by SALTSA, Sweden, the European Commission and ISAST, Paris)

This project analysed the role and effectiveness of safety representatives in improving work environment at workplace level. It aimed to: describe and assess the effectiveness of safety representatives’ intervention at the workplace level in selected countries; compare the characteristics (e.g., differences, similarities, advantages, disadvantages, etc.) of these interventions across countries; identify the preconditions for effective interventions and to elaborate methodological proposals for a better assessment of the safety representatives’ intervention; and build a network of trade unionists and social sciences researchers in the field.


CADIMPLE — An Evaluation of the Impact of the EU Chemical Agents Directive in Member States (funded by the European commission DG V).

CADimple was a research project funded by the European Commission Directorate-General (DG) V: Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs.

The CADimple project was designed to analyse and evaluate the practical impact in the workplace of measures instigated by European Union member countries to implement the Chemical Agents Directive (98/24/EC).

On 24th October 2006 the European Union adopted a community programme for employment and social solidarity called PROGRESS. PROGRESS combines the policy fields of employment and social issues, and puts forward a set of common goals with the aim of improving the effectiveness of community law and programmes within the two fields creating synergistic effects between them. The European Commission’s central role in achieving these goals is both to further the development of the programme and also to monitor progress towards its targets.

The Chemical Agents Directive (98/24/EC) has been in effect since May 2001, with member states required to produce implementation reports by May 2006. In 2007 the European Commission called for proposals for work to provide the necessary information for it to be able to audit the practical implementation of the Directive.

The main objective of the project was to examine the practical impact in the workplace of the implementation of Directive 98/24/EC by member states on the protections of workers’ health and safety from risks related to chemical agents at work. The work was carried out by a consortium of four institutes: the Kooperationsstelle, Hamburg, who co-ordinated the project; the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre (CWERC), Cardiff University; the Dutch research organisation TNO; and the Polish National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CIOP-PIB).


Transferring knowledge for effective management of chemical risks in small firms (funded by the Knowledge Exploitation Fund of the Welsh Assembly Government)

The Welsh Assembly Government awarded Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre (CWERC) funding to undertake a Knowledge Exchange Project that  investigated the practice, problems, needs and key supports for knowledge transfer of chemical risk management strategies to small enterprises in Wales. The project aimed to help establish more effective means to improve the management of chemical risks in small firms. This improvement is expected to lead to better health and safety in small firms in terms of both increased economic efficiency and reduced costs for social and health care. The project investigated barriers to knowledge transfer on chemical risk management in small firms and mechanisms for overcoming them, so that  recommendations concerning future initiatives for knowledge exchange and technology transfer to support good practice on chemical risk management could be made. The project consisted of four phases:

1. Identifying key sectors, users and stakeholders (such as regulators, suppliers)

2. Establishing focus groups to look at use of existing tools, areas where support is lacking, ways of improving effectiveness and the situation for small enterprises in Wales within the wider international context

3. Developing links locally and internationally with a view to future facilitating partnerships

4. Preparing recommendations for effective knowledge exchange initiatives


Understanding the role of supply chains in influencing health and safety management and regulation, in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University (Funded by IOSH)

This research, funded by IOSH, provided a systematic, wide-ranging critical review of the diverse body of international research discussing the nature of supply chain relationships and the influences they may have on the behaviour of the parties concerned and its relevance to health and safety at work. It used several online data-bases to enable access to this literature in the social and public health sciences for the period 1980-2007.