Substances hazardous to health : the nature of the expertise associated with competent risk assessment
This research investigated expertise in hazardous substance risk assessment (HSRA). Competent pro-active risk assessment is needed to prevent occupational ill-health caused by hazardous substance exposure occurring in the future. In recent years there has been a strong demand for HSRA expertise and a shortage of expert practitioners. The discipline of Occupational Hygiene was identified as the key repository of knowledge and skills for HSRA and one objective of this research was to develop a method to elicit this expertise from experienced occupational hygienists. In the study of generic expertise, many methods of knowledge elicitation (KE) have been investigated, since this has been relevant to the development of 'expert systems' (thinking computers). Here, knowledge needed to be elicited from human experts, and this stage was often a bottleneck in system development, since experts could not explain the basis of their expertise. At an intermediate stage, information collected was used to structure a basic model of hazardous substance risk assessment activity (HSRA Model B) and this formed the basis of tape transcript analysis in the main study with derivation of a 'classification' and a 'performance matrix'. The study aimed to elicit the expertise of occupational hygienists and compare their performance with other health and safety professionals (occupational health physicians, occupational health nurses, health and safety practitioners and trainee health and safety inspectors), as evaluated using the matrix. As a group, the hygienists performed best in the exercise, and this group were particularly good at process elicitation and at recommending specific control measures, although the other groups also performed well in selected aspects of the matrix and the work provided useful findings and insights. From the research, two models of HSRA have been derived, an HSRA aid, together with a novel videotape KE technique and interesting research findings. The implications of this are discussed with respect to future training of HS professionals and wider application of the videotape KE method.