The Problem with Research (22/03/2004)
Research work is an active ingredient within the OPERC Association and indeed, OPERC leads the world in producing the very best plant and equipment management research work. Research can undoubtedly improve business profitability, health and safety management and machine productivity if implemented in a timely manner and correctly.
However, there does appear to be a trend within industry where some professional bodies conduct their own in-house research and then announce that a scientific breakthrough has occurred or that some theory has been proven. This is a particularly worrying trend as any credible research should, no must, be independent and unbiased. Another problem that industry seems to be facing is that of delayed availability of research or research after the thought. Consider, for example, new European legislation into Whole Body Vibration (WBV). This legislation will have a major impact upon the plant industry and yet there is very little guidance with which to help the practitioner deal with it. Someone, somewhere has obviously conducted the research to prove that WBV has an impact upon muscular and skeletal components of the human body; they have probably also identified the magnitude of the various factors and variables upon WBV – but where is this research? Ultimately, the practitioner suffers as they grapple with implementing the legislative requirements and risk assessments that seem to provide the answer to these. This then brings this article conveniently onto the final major problem, that of funding. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Commission (HSC) are widely respected and regarded for their invaluable work to reduce accident rates in industry. Against this backdrop it is surprising to learn that funding to these prestigious bodies has been cut both in terms of pay and research budgets. At a time when industry needs more support from the HSE and HSC, the strategy of funding cuts is enigmatic to say the very least. OPERC members are strongly urged to support the HSE in this dispute.
So what are the lessons to be learnt? Very simple really – i) employ credible researchers with integrity ii) conduct the research before you make change and do not try to justify changes already made and iii) support research funding as ultimately you and industry will benefit from it.