Using statistics to assess health risks at work
Course leader presentation: Anne Straumfors
Statistics for Assessment of Occupational Exposures and Health Outcomes
29th of November – 1st of December 2022
Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel, Oslo, Norway
Why are occupational exposure and health effect measurements important?
Occupational exposure and health effect measurements are important both for evaluation of potential health risks and for their potential reduction through identifying and testing efficient control measures.
Occupational exposure assessment plays an integral role in epidemiological studies and deepens our understanding of health hazards and risks. It also supports efforts to characterize exposure prevalence and levels in the working environment, and to estimate disease burden attributable to work across time periods, geographical regions, and worker populations.
To be meaningful for risk evaluation, the measurement strategies of both exposure and health effects must be properly designed for the aim of the evaluation. Should the exposure measurement data mirror the worst-case scenario or the distributions of exposure concentrations over a time? Should the health effect data give information of acute effects, chronic or long-term effects over a shift or over years? Are there any cause-effect relationships?
There are many ways to collect data and to assess exposure levels and health responses. To make an informed decision in which method to apply, one needs to know the advantages and disadvantages of each method. Whether the data output will be representative for the study population or valid for the question asked, will depend on the data collection strategy and the statistical analyses of the data. Therefore, knowledge of the proper statistical methods is very important.
To put the importance in perspective; more than 2 million people die every year from work-related diseases and injuries, while many more suffer from non-fatal injuries or non-healthy conditions at work, according to WHO and United Nations Global Compact. Work-related health problems result in an economic loss of 4-5 % GDP for most countries.
Occupational exposure and health risk assessments and knowledge on health and work is the fundament for primary health protection efforts at the global, national, and local levels, including policies, regulations, and other intervention measures that aim to reduce or eliminate hazards at work and increase health in the working population. This is a great motivation for keeping up with the necessary statistical methods for research in the field.
What can participants expect from this course?
The participants can expect three instructive course days with great opportunities to connect with other researchers in the field.
Through lectures from several of the most experienced international professionals, they will gain knowledge of the statistical methods necessary to make the right decisions when planning studies and assessing occupational exposures and health effects, when assigning exposure estimates for epidemiological use, and when analyzing exposure-response relationships.
Group work each day also gives opportunities for deeper understanding, reflections, and perspectives.
And what is your own background?
I am a lead research professor at the National Institute of Occupational Health (STAMI) in Oslo. I have over many years been working in the intersection point of occupational hygiene, medicine, biology, and chemistry, primarily with the assessment of biological and chemical exposures and exposure effects. This has included both sampling in the field, laboratory analyses of aerosol components (particularly bioaerosols), blood biomarkers, workers health measurements (lung function tests, questionnaires) and the data analyses that comes along with this.
My current research covers exposure studies, in vitro mechanistic studies, and exposure– response studies among workers in various industries, such as greenhouses, seafood, wood processing, sawmills, and wastewater- and waste treatment industries.