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Research

The driving forces behind my research have been a love of exploration and discovery and the desire to make a difference in terms of improving people’s working lives, their health and their safety and security. My current research interests focus on psychosocial risk management, cancer survivorship and working life and disaster management. The issue of work-related stress is central to all three.

Psychosocial Risk Management: Much of my research over the last 40 years has concerned the impact of the design and management of work and organisations on the experience of work-related stress and, in turn, on employees’ health and the healthiness of their organisations. Recently, this interest has been re-borne in the context of sustainable working life. My work has involved both empirical and policy related research including laboratory studies, field studies and the analysis of secondary data sets. Much of my empirical research has been carried out in collaboration with private and public sector companies through the design and evaluation of organisational level interventions. Underpinning my various interests has been the development of a risk management methodology for dealing with, what are now termed, psychosocial risks to employee health. This research has been generously funded over many years by the Health & Safety Executive and the European Agency for Safety & Health at Work and a host of private and public sector bodies in the UK and elsewhere.

Chronic Illness, Cancer Survivorship & Working Life: I am aware of the size of the challenge of chronic conditions not only to individual health and workability but also to organizational healthiness and, indeed, the economy.  This is a key issue for sustainability and working life. Through personal experience, I became particularly interested in how employees diagnosed and treated for cancer adapted to working-on and how their employing organisations managed (or otherwise) to accommodate them. Interestingly, the much of the answer to these questions seems to reside in the availability of evidence-based advice and information for the survivor and the level of relevant knowledge not only within employing organisations but in the health and social care systems. My research in this area is through the METIS Collaboration hosted by the Academic Urology Unit at the University of Aberdeen’s School of Medicine and Dentistry and is, in part, funded by Macmillan in Scotland.

Disaster Management: My research on then management of disasters and major hazards has encompassed, over the years, both rail transport and nuclear power generation. Much of my current research focuses on natural disasters, including those of Hurricane Katrina and the Sichuan earthquake. I also have a historical interest in the Great Irish Famine. The links to my other research interests (see above) are threefold. First, each of these disaster scenarios has both individual (psychological and social) and organisational aspects many of which are stress-related. All also touch on regulatory and political issues. Second, they all represent challenges to making a difference and my research in each of these areas has that as an objective. Third, the differences that can be made are usually to do with individual resilience and post disaster coping and treatment or, at the organisational level, in risk assessment, emergency planning and the development of robust day-to-day management and support systems. Essentially, organisations have to develop sustainable (resilient) work systems and environments. This research has been largely funded through post graduate awards.

I talked through my interest in disaster psychology and management in my Alec Roger Memorial Lecture 2011 through the lens of resilience. This lecture is available on YouTube.

Professor Thomas Cox

Professor Thomas Cox

 
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