UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Exploring knowledge translation in occupational health using the mental models approach: a case study of machine shops Nicol, Anne-Marie; Hurrell, Anna C


The field of knowledge translation and exchange is growing, particularly in the area of health services. Programs that advance “bench-to-bedside” approaches have found success in leveraging new research into a number of medical fields through knowledge translation strategies. However, knowledge translation remains an understudied area in the realm of occupational health, a factor that is interesting because workplace health research is often directly applicable to risk reduction activities. This research project investigated knowledge translation in one occupational setting, small machine shops, where workers are exposed to metal working fluids (MWF) which are well established dermal and respiratory irritants. Using the mental models approach, influence diagrams were developed for both scientists and were compared with qualitative interview data from workers. Initial results indicated that the sphere of influence diagrams would benefit from the inclusion of other stakeholders, namely policy makers and product representatives. Overall, findings from this research suggest that there is only minimal transfer of scientific knowledge regarding the health effects of metal working to those at the machine shop level. A majority of workers did not perceive metal working fluids to be hazardous to their health. Of note was the finding that MWF product representatives were rated highly as key sources of risk information. The translation of scientific knowledge to this occupational setting was poor, which may be due to varying perceptions and prioritizations of risk between stakeholders, lack of avenues through which communication could occur, an absence of accessible risk information and the small size of the workplaces. The mental models approach proved successful for eliciting information in this occupational context.

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