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The University of Southampton

Professor Keith T Palmer BM BCh, DM, MA, MSc, FFOM, MRGP

Professor of Occupational Medicine, Consultant Occupational Physician

Professor Keith T Palmer's photo

Professor Keith T Palmer is Professor of Occupational Medicine within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Professor Keith Palmer studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and the John Radcliffe Hospital. A former GP and Employment Medical Adviser with the HSE, he completed his specialist training in Occupational Medicine in 1994 and has since held a tenured research post at consultant grade in occupational epidemiology with the MRC Epidemiology Lifecourse Unit in Southampton, as well as being an honorary consultant with the Southampton University NHS Trust and holding a Chair in Occupational Medicine with the University of Southampton.

Additionally, he chairs the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (a statutory body that advises the Secretary of State at the DWP on state-funded compensation to workers suffering recognised occupational diseases and injuries); he served as Editor of the BMJ Publishing Group journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine between 2003 and 2009; and he was Academic Dean at the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Royal College of Physicians, London from 2007 - 2013.

His research is focused on the epidemiology of occupational diseases, and the clinical management and prevention of work-associated illnesses. He is a joint leader of an MRC funded research programme on work and health.


BM BCh, Oxford University (1981)
MA Physiological Sciences, Oxford University (1982)
MRGP, Royal College of General Practitioners (1985) (Distinction)
MFOM, Faculty of Occupational Medicine, RCP London (1994)
Higher specialist accreditation, JCHMT (1994)
FFOM, Faculty of Occupational Medicine, RCP London (1998)
DM, Oxford University (2000)
MSc, Epidemiology, University of London (2005) (Distinction)

Appointments held

Professor of Occupational Medicine - Faculty of Medicine, Health & Biological Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Southampton and Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit.

Research interests

The Work and Health research programme applies epidemiological methods to inform the management of health risks related to employment. It embraces the identification of hazards, quantification of risks, and evaluation of controls to reduce risk.

The output often has practical applications, addressing problems relevant to Government policy and/or to clinical and regulatory decisions in occupational health care. For example:

  • We have discovered a novel occupational risk of lobar pneumonia in workers exposed to metal fume. The evidence, which applies to mortality and hospital care for pneumonia, has led the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to recommend pneumococcal vaccination for welders and other workers exposed to metal fume.
  • Our research on osteoarthritis (OA) and occupational physical workload has supported state compensation for farmers (hip OA) and coal miners (knee OA).
  • Our studies on pesticides have led to tighter controls over storage.
  • An analysis of mortality by occupation covering 2.76 million men from England and Wales during 1979-2000 has tracked time trends in occupational mortality, and identified contemporary targets for prevention by safety authorities.
  • Other studies have concerned arm pain, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, occupational Raynaud’s phenomenon, cancers caused by work, the health problems of pregnant workers, and the extent of deafness in Britain caused by noise at work.

The research also encompasses common health problems that prevent people from working (e.g. factors that influence job loss after joint replacement; the effectiveness of interventions to reduce sickness absence and job loss from musculoskeletal causes; injury risk in workers with age-related health impairments) – the aim being to encourage vocational rehabilitation and job retention and improve quality of working life.

Finally, a particular focus in recent times has been the challenge posed by symptoms and disability in the absence of objectively identifiable underlying pathology. Such illnesses (which include low back pain and arm pain) are common and disabling. Often they are attributed to workplace hazards, but cultural factors and health beliefs seem also to be important in their development and persistence.

A large multicentre international cohort study, co-ordinated from Southampton, is exploring this issue in depth by studying workers with similar occupational duties who are drawn from dissimilar cultural settings (18 countries in all, some Westernized and some the developing world). As well as improving our understanding about modern epidemics of ‘RSI’ and back pain, the research may help to identify appropriate population-level policies on prevention.

Research group

Human Development and Health

Affiliate research group

Primary Care Research group

A research post at consultant grade in occupational epidemiology, with various academically related representative responsibilities, including public health advice to Government.

The latter have included:

  • Academic Dean & Deputy President, Royal College of Physicians Faculty of Occupational Medicine (2007 - 2013)
  • Chairman Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (2008 – present; member since 2001)
  • Editor-in-Chief, Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2003-9); member of its International Advisory Board, (2009 – present)
  • Member, International Advisory Board, Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health (2004 - present)
  • Member Editorial Advisory Board, BMJ (2007 - 2009)
  • Member, Royal College of Physicians Faculty of Occupational Medicine Executive Committee, Specialist Advisory Committee, Assessment Subcommittee, Academic Committee and Academic Forum (2007 - present); examiner (since 1994)
  • Member, Advisory Committee on Pesticides (DEFRA) (2012 - present)
  • Member, Medical and Toxicology Panel, Advisory Committee on Pesticides (2012-present)
  • Member, Scientific Committee on Epidemiology in Occupational Health and Scientific Committee of PREMUS, ICOH (2003 - present)
  • Referee for many peer-review journals, grant and programme reviewer to many international and national funding bodies
  • Teaching Scientific Basis of Medicine Course to 3rd Year Medical Students
  • Teaching 4th Year BMedSc projects
  • Supervising some 4th Year BMedSc projects
Professor Keith T Palmer
MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (University of Southampton), Mailpoint 95 Southampton General Hospital Southampton. SO16 6YD Tel: 023 80 777624 Email:
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