The Health and Occupation Research Network

Project Investigator: Professor Raymond Agius
Project Contact: Dr Melanie Carder

The national occupational health surveillance schemes in the UK utilise voluntarily submitted, medically certified data which are probably the most long standing and advanced of their type in the world. They are run by the University of Manchester and since 2002 collectively use the acronym THOR - The Health and Occupation Research network. This reflects the wide range of research activity (not limited to case reporting) undertaken within this programme of work.

The schemes first developed from SWORD (Surveillance of Work-Related and Occupational Respiratory Disease) set up for occupational and respiratory physicians in 1989. The THOR schemes:

  • rely on the willing participation of more than one thousand specialist doctors including occupational physicians, respiratory physicians, consultants in communicable disease and dermatologists, as well as specially trained general practitioners who report cases of work-related ill health anonymously
  • are targeted to return more than 6000 reports annually between them, either electronically or by post. These generate an annual estimate of about 25,000 cases of occupational disease and work related ill health, with individual but limited and anonymous confidential data on more than 10% of these
  • continue to provide estimates of the incidence of occupational disease or disorders in the UK based on medical specialist diagnoses. These data inform the national agenda as well as providing a resource for applied occupational health epidemiology and other research besides information for participating physicians. In addition, since 2005, THOR collects data and conducts research on the burden of work-related sickness absence.

In these respects THOR functions as a 'observatory' for medically certified information on incidence, trends and sickness absence burden of occupational disease and work-related ill health, at a national and regional level, and within specific industrial sectors. It has identified and tracked trends and relates them to specific risks and interventions. Its value for purposes such as these can be seen by searching for the acronym 'THOR' on the HSE website.

Since 2005, THOR has also been collecting data from the Republic of Ireland. THOR collaborates with European partners such as the RNV3P (Réseau nationalde vigilance et de prévention des pathologies professionnelles) in France, with colleagues at the Coronel Institute for Work and Health in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe within the European consortium called MODERNET (Monitoring trends in Occupational Diseases and New and Emerging Risks Network).

The website provides links to the various THOR schemes as well as illustrative material for the benefit of reporting physicians, other stakeholders and interested members of the public.

Further information