Home Articles Stepping forward for challenges in Health, Safety and Environment in GIS perspective

Stepping forward for challenges in Health, Safety and Environment in GIS perspective

Kashif Siddiqi
Project Manager, Institute of Geographical Information System, National University of Sciences and Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan

Prof. Graham Clarke
Professor, Department of Geography, University of Le
eds, England

Environmental Health and Safety is a key player of sustainable development. Pakistan as a developing country has to follow the foot steps of developed countries. Economics play a vital role in setting up of standards. This paper is a guideline for utilization of modern technological resources for developing standards economically through precedence of developed countries like UK. A review is carried out to see the market inclination of Health & Safety in public and private sector in UK, type of data available and its linkage to geographical information system (GIS) with an objective of defining a future course of action. Two separate approaches have been adopted, firstly market analysis of health & safety sector including Environmental Protection expenditures to see the growing potential and secondly, suggesting an exclusive GIS frame work for Health & Safety at Work for an Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP). The results show that scope of GIS is enormous in Health & Safety sector, although much of GIS work is available in medical & health sector but the potential of GIS in Health & Safety at work sector exclusively is not fully discovered and there is a room of improvement. Technological solutions are available in the market that uses GIS at the backdrop and can be utilized at micro and macro level for better planning in carrying out Health & Safety Inspection.

1. Introduction
The tremendous potential of GIS to benefit the health care industry is just now beginning to be realized. Both public and private sectors are developing innovative ways to harness the data integration and spatial visualization power of GIS (Barnes, S. and A. Peck, 1994). The types of companies and organizations adopting GIS span the health care spectrum–from public health departments and public health policy and research organizations to hospitals, medical centers, health insurance organizations and private environmental health flexible resourcing companies. While health care professionals in the public health sector were early adopters of GIS and continue to find new and innovative uses for this technology, the use of GIS in the private health sector has grown substantially in the last decade (Gattrell, A 1998). Scope of GIS is analyzed in health, safety and environmental protection at micro level to determine its applicability.

2. Latest Market Trends
There is no single source of information available in the UK on the nature and full extent of occupational and work-related ill health. Indeed, as the coverage of occupational healthcare providers increasingly offers greater preventive care, encouraged by the greater provision of contracted out care, reliable data on extent and efficiency becomes even harder to obtain.

Table 1: Estimated Shares in the UK Private Health & Safety Market, 2003

In an industry with a varied level of fragmentation, it is not possible to review all the companies in the industry. BMI Health Services delivers occupational health and safety services to more than 800 organizations throughout the UK. Current services offered by the company include health and safety audits, advice & consultancy, pre-employment screening, stress management and safety & hygiene assessments. The company increased turnover year-on-year throughout the review period of 1998- 2002. Sales of more than £17.1 million in 2002 represented a 69% increase in comparison with the beginning of the review period which was £10.1 million in 1998. BUPA remains by far the largest operator in the market, with an estimated market share in 2003 of 38%, compared with a stronger 41% in 2000 (MINTEL 2003). The estimated value shares of the market in 2003 are shown in table 1.

There are a number of private consultancy companies that are working for improvement in Health & Safety Market for Private and Public Sector. The major companies are M R Associates (Environmental Health Services) which is based in Leeds, Osborne Richardson (Environmental Health Resourcing) based in London, Michael Howard Associates Ltd based in Lancashire, I.E.H.C (Independent Environmental Health Cooperatives) based in Bedfordshire and ABC Food Safety based in Essex, Comcare Environmental Services based in Northhants and RSA Environmental Health Limited is also one of the major competitors for flexible Resourcing in the Health & safety market and has recently become a part of Personal Health & Safety Consultants (PHSC) Plc.(EHN 2004). All these companies provide their services to various clients as employees are biggest asset for a company, and it is to everyone’s benefit that their good health is maintained. The extent of outsourcing is shown in Table 2. An HSE report suggested that work-related injuries and illness costs the British economy between £14-18 billion per year, equating the cost to the economy as a whole of as much as 2.6% of GDP (www.hse.gov.uk).

Table 2: The UK Market for Occupational Health Provision, 1999-2003 (£ Million)

3. Materials & Methodology
A literature review from available books on Health & Safety and information from web augmented by GIS involvement in Health & Safety sector is kept in mind for analyzing the problem in hand. Keeping in view the aspects of Health & safety a different approach is adopted by adding spatial component and breaking down of activities for formulating a schema that can form part of GIS model. Two separate approaches have been used firstly market analysis of health & safety sector in UK is carried out to visualize the potential and secondly a frame work of health and safety Inspection is proposed which is a basic unit of Health & Safety at work to be used at micro level.

All the information that is analyzed is focused towards breaking down of Health & Safety inspection in a GIS frame work for better governance of available resources and data. An inspection is the lowest level of checking and maintaining health & safety at work by a Local Authority in public sector and in private sector it is carried out by the Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) from flexible resourcing companies and other means. A new wave of technological advancement is taking this field towards a geographical based information system that stores attributes keeping known geographical references at backdrop. This helps the EHPs at all levels, starting from planning of an individual inspection to a strategic decision at the highest level of hierarchy.

4. Environmental Protection
Local public health and safety agencies across the country are placing greater emphasis on disease surveillance, preparedness and response coordination to combat health threats such as West Nile virus, anthrax, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bio-terrorism and health & safety at work (HSE 2003). They are finding that GIS is an effective technology for aggregating, integrating and displaying data from various sources to create complete pictures of health conditions in their jurisdictions. GIS allows public and environmental health practitioners to put their data on a map, where they can easily assess patterns, trends and relationships between health events and environmental, socioeconomic and geographic factors.

GIS mapping and analysis capabilities can assist virtually all public health functions by combining data sets such as disease reports, demographics, health care facility usage and vital records with geographic data layers (i.e., census tracts, towns, counties, land use, facility locations). As a result, public health agencies can better monitor environmental health, track community health and plan programs targeted to specific areas of the community. By connecting health records to specific addresses, census tracts, zip codes or counties, GIS can be used to pinpoint concentrations of disease, track the spread of disease and contribute to risk assessment and public notification.

The ability of GIS to combine health provider data with regional demographic data allows users to calculate service areas or markets, helps to identify underserved populations, and can help public health agencies efficiently allocate scarce program resources to appropriate locations. The barriers to GIS application in public health are falling. Health departments can take advantage of investments made by states, cities and counties throughout the nation in GIS data development.

Health, Safety and Environmental Protection is a critical issue in most countries, requiring an integrated system approach to be faced in an effective manner (Occupational Health (Industrial Report) – UK – May 2004). In fact, the considerable increase in degradation of environment due to waste production suggests the necessity of a correct balance among the various available technological options for waste collection and treatment, respecting also economic constraints, existing local and state regulations, environmental issues, and taking into account public acceptance (Massey and Dodd, 1996; Lin and Kao, 1997; Valeo et aL, 1998; Senes and Toccolini, 1998; Marino et al., 1999; McDonald, 1996).

Environmental protection is an action or activity (which involves the use of equipment, labor, manufacturing techniques and practices, information networks and products) where the main purpose is to collect, treat, reduce, prevent or eliminate pollutants and pollution or any other degradation of the environment resulting from the operating activity of the company index.htm).

5. GIS Perspective
The out sourcing to flexible resource companies is reaching 46% and must have a technological component. Important factor is the visualization of GIS involvement in Health & Safety Sector. These issues include spatial clustering of health events, environmental hazards, the spread of infectious disease, vector-borne disease, access to health services, and locating health services. Keeping track of commercial premises, availability, inspection dates and risk assessment is a key responsibility of Environmental Health Officers. Health & Safety mapping is undergoing a renaissance. The relative ease of use of contemporary Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the availability of national and international, health-related data through the Internet have combined to create a new and unusually ecumenical generation of persons using maps to understand medical issues. The relative ease with which maps can be generated using GIS, masks the real difficulties of the graphic exposition of environment related phenomenon.

6. Health & Safety Inspection Framework
A Health & Safety perspective for which mapping is a potentially potent tool can have various GIS components:

Spatial——– Spatial functionality means a provision of a simple means of identifying commercial premises, viewing proximity of premises with similar use type and analyzing information geographically. To help identify under performing registered premises on a map illustrating clusters and trends. It basically enables an EHO to plot the locations of the outbreak of disease etc.

Health & Safety Details——–A simple means of recording report details and registration information for all premises involving the health & Safety risks. It means a provision of a standard form (geo-database) that help maintains a comprehensive record of traders, risk summaries, use types and addresses.

Risk factor analysis——–An analysis of risk factor as a requirement from various international and national agencies.

Health & Safety data——–Data record of all Health & Safety practices, ensuring that only the most up-to-date information is associated with the properties are stored in a geo-database.

Inspections, Visit and Actions——– Schedule and coordinate follow up events, such as site inspections and risk assessment, recording all information in the database. Record sample data and issue reminders when the next sample is due to be taken.

Sample details——– Where standard criteria are in operation, to ensure the right data is collected. An EHO can record the precise location to ensure future samples offer a true comparison by using the same location again.

Performance Monitoring——– Comprehensive tracking of response times enabling the management of targets.

Technical Issues——–Identification of areas by means of polygons and individual spots by point details and more importantly use of buffers for various analysis. It also includes the type of equipment and materials that are being used. This will help in a better planning and understanding of the nature of problem. 7. Adoption inevitable

Case study I——–Dr. John Snow’s paradigmatic analysis of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, London
This first case has been taken for discussion as it is the most referred case in text book and its advantages as a structured teaching case are numerous. The presentation of this case is therefore not only necessary for medical cartographers but also for GIS developers in Health & Safety sector to portray breakdown of events and its explanation in a spatial context. Hand made maps of disease outbreaks in both Europe and North America are a precedence to Dr. Snow’s case(Jarco 1970; Stevenson 1965).

Dr. Snow gathered data on deaths from the General Register Office-the office charged with collecting such data-from other physicians, and in a survey of affected houses that he personally conducted (Snow 1855a, 39). In his own investigations he attempted to ascertain from relatives of the deceased where they had gotten their drinking water.

Technical Issues——–John Snow (1855b) is often said to be the first person to use what today are called Thiessen or Voronoi polygons to map one source of locational data upon another, a fundamental contribution to analytic mapping (McLeod 2000; Brody 2000). This basic form of proximity analysis creates catchment areas based on the proximity of point-based data attributes, in this case the location of the water sources (McLeod 2000, 133; Brody 2000, 4). The intent of this case study was to introduce the paradigmatic case of early epidemiology and public health & safety to GIS users carrying out data analysis using GIS(Whitehead 1855, 96-97)..

In this simple, localized study the GIS approach provides a number of advantages. First and foremost it is relatively fast. Snow took days to calculate his polygon around the Broad Street pump, something the GIS program does in seconds. Secondly, it provides an array of potent techniques-like nearest neighbor analysis and the spatial (or weighted mean) unavailable to Snow and his contemporaries. Third, the ability of the GIS database to summarize and analyze data at a range of scales-local, regional, national and international-is an enormous boon.

Discussion & Results
He carried out a buffer analysis, nearest neighbor analysis and carried out the mapping. In effect, buffering around individual deaths gives us Snow’s perspective, one of apparent centrality. Buffering of the pumps permits a first attempt at quantifying that centrality. While using Snow’s general insight as a hypothesis, GIS provides critical tools that permit to go beyond Snow’s general approach. Nearest neighbor analysis in GIS permits the elements of two distinct data sets to be analyzed based, in this case, upon the distance between each member of the first set and the nearest member of the second set. Figure 1 shows the percentages of deaths that were being observed and marked by Dr Snow as a part of his initial GIS. This graph has been compiled by taking into consideration the number of deaths in the close vicinity of the wells from where the water has been consumed. This shows a clearer picture of the effect of distance on the deaths. This is also one way of representation along with a map of deaths that were made by marking the location of each death. This could of great help to EHPs for decision making and planning.

Figure 1: Percentages of death in relation to distance
Source: Values derived from Dr. John Snow’s paradigmatic analysis of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, London

This analysis was particularly in a GIS context how ever for an EHP the following points may be of concern for Health & Safety Inspection in the same scenario:

Spatial——–Identification of source (location) to cause the disease.

Sample Details——–Sample locations to overlap the buffers.

Risk Factor Analysis——–As in this case the outbreak of cholera and the deaths resulting from it has been observed more in the areas nearer the well and 87 % deaths were of those who have directly taken water from these wells. An EHP can carryout this analysis through a customized GIS for Health & Safety by plotting the individual deaths, area of residence, source of contamination and the latest health & safety standards for periodical checks.

Inspection, Visits and Actions——–All these activities are interlinked. The sites are identified and after an inspection it is given a category and the further action is dependent upon the nature of threat. As in this case the well had to be closed and people were warned.

Case Study II——–Sea Impress oil spill
On the 15th February 1996 the massive oil tanker Sea Empress was grounded at the entrance to Milford Haven, Wales. As a result of this about 72,000 tonnes of Forties Blend crude oil (FBCO) and 360 tonnes of heavy fuel oil (HFO) was released over several days. The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) methods was simply to record visible oil affecting a range of habitat categories based on Ordnance Survey 1:10000 mapping (sand/mud flats and beaches, shingle, saltmarsh and rocky shores). The total length of coastline was standardised at the 1:10,000 digital Ordnance Survey High Water Mark (HWM). Oiling was classified as sheen, medium oiling, heavy oiling and thick mousse.

Using rasterised Ordnance Survey 1:10000 maps displayed on screen each area affected by oiling was identified and a polygon defining the area created. Each polygon was labeled according to the type of oiling. The date of survey was recorded, as the maps only reflect the state of the shore on that time. It may be that areas covered in light oil one day may have been heavily oiled the next. The most recent surveys have been joined into a single coverage (called OIL_COV) using the arc command IDENTITY. This creates a set of polygons and lines (high and low water marks) coded to show the degree of oiling. The high and low water marks have been derived from OS 1:10000 boundary line data.

The habitat information was captured from 1:10000 OS maps. Five different categories were used. The inter-tidal zone has been attributed using these definitions. Where no polygon exists in the OS data for the inter-tidal zone one was created.

Map production
Maps of the survey were produced using ARC/INFO. The maps show the type of oiling, protected sites and nature reserves on an Ordnance Survey 1:10000 background map. The coastline was divided into a series of segments This unique code was subsequently used to attach the digitized segments to the information on a Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team (SCAT) form. This information included the shoreline habitat, nature of oiling, and weather conditions. This was subsequently entered into CCW’s SCAT database. The GIS data was captured using the same method as for the initial survey. Polygons were used to divide the high and low water marks into a series of coded segments.

Discussion & Results
The use of GIS in this case has brought following benefits:

Spatial——–Although a complete organization was set up to look into the matter as it was beyond the control of Health & Safety Department of the Council. However the base line remains the same. CCW was required to produce maps of the impacted coastline to check the extent of damage to environment and nature. GIS provides the ideal storage and retrieval system for this data.

Health & Safety Details——–One of the main advantages was the ability to overlay data with other data sets, such as health & safety details of protected sites information. The information system can be further embellished as other data sets become available. Keeping in view these datasets a better picture can be drawn for good planning and HACCP formulation.

Risk Factor Analysis——–The risk analysis of the sample that has been obtained by the ground surveyors was carried out. As is done previously the hand drawn maps would have made the data difficult to retrieve making comparisons between surveys extremely difficult. Furthermore analysis of the data would have been time consuming. This would have limited the degree of analysis. A GIS integrated with Health & Safety information provides scope for more detailed interrogation of the data using procedures that can be standardized amongst several different organizations.

Sample Details——–The Samples were collected by keeping in view the spatial dimensions. During the spill GIS was used to calculate lengths of coastline affected, and was able to accurately pin point the protected sites in the impacted area. Without GIS it would have been very difficult and time consuming, to calculate the lengths of coastline and the component habitats. GIS was also used to project protected sites information onto Admiralty Charts. The sites were provided as an overlay as the Charts were not in a format readily available for GIS. The movement of the spill was then plotted daily onto the chart. Without GIS this information would have been plotted against the OS National Grid and then transformed to Mercator projection to fit the Admiralty Charts.

GIS Methodology——–The coastline affected by the oil spill was mapped at 1:10000 scale. This data was then captured digitally using ESRI’s ARC/INFO GIS software. It was then combined with other information stored in the GIS, e.g. protected sites, to produce maps of the affected area. Habitat information for the affected coastline was also captured showing the extent of affected habitats.The GIS is also being used to store other spill-related information, such as the locations of environmental samples taken by all the various agencies involved in the response.

8. Recommendations
Health & Safety market of UK is an ever growing market. The lack of relevant data at macro level regarding health & safety inspections for health & safety at work needs more deliberation and an addition of spatial context for future analysis is required. Although statistics at larger spectrum are available but for a GIS analysis the missing links are the interlinking of the data to a known geography with the environmental health expenditure. This includes the capital expenditures and services through flexible resourcing companies. The lack of information in private & public sector does make this analysis difficult for prediction of the exact market analysis of Health & Safety sector. There is also need to educate the Environmental Health Practitioners to learn the use of GIS for Health & Safety.

Point data is an essential tool to pinpoint the individual location or entity and is essential to maximize the benefits of GIS for public health research in health & safety sector. In the case of health related data, point data could consist of individual patients’ home or occupational addresses, or where individuals came into contact with disease vectors, outbreaks or any Health & Safety risks.

The recording and presentation of point data does not present any special problems in the traditional domains of GIS, where the data involved generally refer to objects like industries, work places etc. In contrast, point data are generally not available for social and health & safety applications of GIS where datasets consist of information about human beings, due to ethical, ideological and legal considerations for the maintenance of personal privacy. For some research applications, such as the definition of disease prevalence, it is sufficient to use aggregated data about groups of people. But, for more sophisticated research aimed at determining possible causal relationships or for longitudinal studies, data relating to identifiable individuals are essential.

The important point here is that the most commonly used way of protecting confidentiality of individuals or small group is the aggregation of point data to area data. Pakistan being a developing country needs to strengthen its base in terms of technology and data acquisition in the fields of health, safety and environmental protection to make utilization of this technology.

10. Conclusion
The health & Safety market is not as regulated in Pakistan as in case of UK, it requires quality tools for monitoring and optimizing networks. There is a need to customize GIS setup for Health & Safety sector. GIS is still largely uncharted territory for most public health researchers and EHPs and the association with GIS can be overwhelming. Those promoting GIS for health and safety research and health & safety at work must emphasize the importance of the spatial component to researchers from various disciplines. Otherwise there is a real risk that many health and safety researchers and EHPs may only use GIS for its mapping functions, not realizing that to gain maximum benefit from the technology their project must exploit its sophisticated spatial (as distinct from statistical) analytical capacity.

The need to understand space, location and distribution, particularly of environmental and social phenomena, highlights the role of geographers and other spatial analysts in health and safety research using GIS.

In the increasingly information-intensive environment of tomorrow’s health and safety, the role of GIS will have greater importance due to its abilities to integrate a wide range of data sources, from legacy systems to image data, and to make complex data more quickly and easily understood. The breakdown of Health & safety inspection in a GIS perspective is just one aspect of Environmental Protection and Health & Safety. This needs to be looked in detail of how the things shall be implemented at National level so that the benefits can be reaped at an individual level.


  • Brody, H. M. R. Rip, P. Vinten-Johansen, et al. 2000. Map-making and myth-making in Broad Street: The London cholera epidemic, 1854, The Lancet 356, 64 – 68. https://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/ snow/mapmyth /mapmyth.htmlGatrell AC (2001) Geographies of Health, Oxford: Blackwells. (Chapter 9)
  • HSE, 2003, Health & Safety Executive report
  • Jarco, S. 1970. Yellow fever, cholera, and the beginnings of medical cartography, journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 25: 131-142.
  • Lin, H. and Kao, J. (1997), “Spatial models for landfill siting on WWW”, Proceedings of the Air & Waste Management Association Annual Meeting, pp. 365-78.
  • Marino, A., Pecci, IV and Silvestri, F. (1999), “Remote sensing and GIS techniques for the environmental management of areas exposed to industrial pollution events”, Proceedings of the SPIE- The International Society for Optical Engineering, pp. 87-93.
  • McDonald, M.L. (1996), “Multiattribute spatial decision support system for solid waste planning”, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 1-17.
  • McLeod, K. 2000. Our sense of Snow: The myth of John Snow in medical geography, Social Science and Medicine 40 (7&8): 923-936.
  • Senes, G. and Toccolini, A. (1998), “Sustainable land use planning in protected rural areas in Italy”, Landscape and Urban Planning, June, pp. 107-17.
  • Senes, G. and Toccolini, A. (1998), “Sustainable land use planning in protected rural areas in Italy”, Landscape and Urban Planning, June, pp. 107-17.
  • 10. Snow, J. 1853. On Continuous Molecular Changes, More Particularly in Their Relation to Epidemic Disease. London: John Churchill; Reprinted in J. Snow, 1936, Snow on Cholera, London: Oxford University Press.
  • Snow, J. 1855a. On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, 2nd ed. London: J. Churchill; Reprinted in J. Snow, 1936, Snow on Cholera, London: Oxford University Press.
  • Snow, J. 1855b. Snow’s report, in Report on the Cholera Outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, During the Autumn of 1854. London: J. Churchill, 97-120.
  • Snow, J. 1856. Cholera and the water supply in the South Districts of London in 1854, Journal of Public Health 2: 239-257.
  • Stevenson, L. G. 1965. Putting disease on the map: The early use of spot maps in the study of yellow fever, Journal of the History of Medical Science and Allied Sciences 20: 226-261.
  • Valeo, C., Baetz, B.W. and Tsanis, LK. (1998), *Location of recycling depots with GIS”, ASCE Journal of Urban Planning and Development, Vol. 124 No. 2, pp. 93-9.
  • Whitehead, H. 1855. Mr. Whitehead’s report. In Report on the Cholera Outbreak in the Parish of St. James, Westminster, During the Autumn of 1854. London: J. Churchill, 121-167.
  • https://www.safetynews.co.uk/we250704/Farmers%20can%20now%20get%20e-help%20with%20risk%20assessment.htm
  • https://www.co-opfarmcare.com
  • %20fragile%20rural%20areas.pdf

Page 3 of 3