2014-08-01 12:00 - Messages

Occupational profiles in working conditions

Identification of groups with multiple disadvantages
Job quality indexes are constructed on the basis of such aspects of working conditions as earnings, prospects, working time, and intrinsic job quality. Occupations where job quality is consistently low are labelled ‘occupations with multiple disadvantages'. This report uses data from the fifth European Working Conditions Survey to identify such occupations. It finds that workers in mid-skilled manual and lowskilled occupations do quite poorly when it comes to earnings, prospects and intrinsic job quality, and they report relatively low levels of both physical and mental well-being. However, their working time quality is generally good. In contrast, workers in high-skilled occupations do relatively well on almost all job quality indicators, except working time.

Source: http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef1413.htm

Efficacy of an internet-based problem-solving training for teachers

Results of a randomized controlled trial
Objective: The primary purpose of this randomized controlled trial (RCT) was to evaluate the efficacy of internet-based problem-solving training (iPST) for employees in the educational sector (teachers) with depressive symptoms. The results of training were compared to those of a waitlist control group (WLC).
Methods: One-hundred and fifty teachers with elevated depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, CES-D ≥16) were assigned to either the iPST or WLC group. The iPST consisted of five lessons, including problem-solving and rumination techniques. Symptoms were assessed before the intervention began and in follow-up assessments after seven weeks, three months, and six months. The primary outcome was depressive symptom severity (CES-D). Secondary outcomes included general and work-specific self-efficacy, perceived stress, pathological worries, burnout symptoms, general physical and mental health, and absenteeism.
Results: iPST participants displayed a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms after the intervention (d=0.59, 95% CI 0.26–0.92), after three months (d=0.37, 95% CI 0.05–0.70) and after six months (d=0.38, 95% CI 0.05–0.70) compared to the control group. The iPST participants also displayed significantly higher improvements in secondary outcomes. However, workplace absenteeism was not significantly affected.
Conclusion: iPST is effective in reducing symptoms of depression among teachers. Disseminated on a large scale, iPST could contribute to reducing the burden of stress-related mental health problems among teachers. Future studies should evaluate iPST approaches for use in other working populations.

Source: Ebert DD, Lehr D, Boß L, Riper H, Cuijpers P, Andersson G, Thiart H, Heber E, Berking M. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2014

Taking risks and survival jobs

Foreign-born workers and work-related injuries in Australia
Higher rates of work-related injuries (WRI) have been reported among foreign-born workers in many countries, but little is known about the situation in Australia, which initially had large waves of European followed by Asian migration and where the recruitment of skilled migrants has dominated recently. The aim of the study was to examine WRI among foreign-born workers in Australia. This was a two phase mixed methods study. The first stage used the 2005/6 and 2009/10 Australian national Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) information on WRI occurring in the previous year (N = 36,702). Logistic regression examined the relationship between WRI and country of birth, adjusting for period of arrival in Australia, age, sex, industry and working conditions. Next, 92 purposively sampled foreign-born workers participated in individual interviews (n = 17) or focus groups (n = 75). Workers were sampled via community organisations, trade unions or churches. A concurrent thematic analysis was conducted. Analysis of the MPHS showed that country of birth was generally not associated with a higher reporting of WRI and compared with Australian-born workers, those from Oceania reported less WRI. Key themes from the interviews suggest that understanding of Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) differed by community integration and cohesiveness. Precarious work, cultural factors and the demands of production may preclude workers from reporting incidents. Quantitative findings from the MPHS point to higher risks related to area of work rather than country of birth. However qualitative findings suggest there may be some under-reporting of WRI among migrants to Australia.

Source: Reid A, Lenguerrand E, Santos I, Read U, Lamontagne AD, Fritschi L, Harding S. Safety Sci. 2014; 70: 378-386.

Impact of Organizational Policies and Practices on Workplace Injuries in a Hospital Setting

Objective: This study aimed to assess relationships between perceptions of organizational practices and policies (OPP), social support, and injury rates among workers in hospital units.
Methods: A total of 1230 hospital workers provided survey data on OPP, job flexibility, and social support. Demographic data and unit injury rates were collected from the hospitals' administrative databases.
Results: Injury rates were lower in units where workers reported higher OPP scores and high social support. These relationships were mainly observed among registered nurses. Registered nurses perceived coworker support and OPP as less satisfactory than patient care associates (PCAs). Nevertheless, because of the low number of PCAs at each unit, results for the PCAs are preliminary and should be further researched in future studies with larger sample sizes.
Conclusions: Employers aiming to reduce injuries in hospitals could focus on good OPP and supportive work environment.

Source: Tveito, T. H.; Sembajwe, G.; Boden, L. I.; Dennerlein, J. T.; Wagner, G. R.; Kenwood, C.; Stoddard, A. M.; Reme, S. E.; Hopcia, K.; Hashimoto, D.; Shaw, W. S.; Sorensen, G. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: August 2014, Volume 56, Issue 8, p. 802–808.

Shift work and diabetes mellitus

A meta-analysis of observational studies
Background: Observational studies suggest that shift work may be associated with diabetes mellitus (DM). However, the results are inconsistent. No systematic reviews have applied quantitative techniques to compute summary risk estimates.
Objectives: To conduct a meta-analysis of observational studies assessing the association between shift work and the risk of DM.
Methods: Relevant studies were identified by a search of PubMed, Embase, Web of Science and ProQuest Dissertation and Theses databases to April 2014. We also reviewed reference lists from retrieved articles. We included observational studies that reported OR with 95% CIs for the association between shift work and the risk of DM. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed the study quality.
Results: Twelve studies with 28 independent reports involving 226 652 participants and 14 595 patients with DM were included. A pooled adjusted OR for the association between ever exposure to shift work and DM risk was 1.09 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.12; p=0.014; I2=40.9%). Subgroup analyses suggested a stronger association between shift work and DM for men (OR=1.37, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.56) than for women (OR=1.09, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.14) (p for interaction=0.01). All shift work schedules with the exception of mixed shifts and evening shifts were associated with a statistically higher risk of DM than normal daytime schedules, and the difference among those shift work schedules was significant (p for interaction=0.04).
Conclusions: Shift work is associated with an increased risk of DM. The increase was significantly higher among men and the rotating shift group, which warrants further studies.

Source: Yong Gan and others. Shift work and diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of observational studies, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 16 July 2014.

Workplace Stress

What Is the Role of Positive Mental Health?
Objective: To examine whether positive mental health (PMH)—a positively focused well-being construct—moderates the job stress–distress relationship.
Methods: Longitudinal regression was used to test two waves of matched, population-level data from a sample of older, working Australian adults (n = 3291) to see whether PMH modified the relationship between work stress and later psychological distress.
Results: Time 1 work stress was positively associated with distress at both time points. Positive mental health was negatively associated with work stress at both time points. Positive mental health modified the impact of work stress on psychological distress. This effect only occurred for those with the highest levels of PMH.
Conclusions: Positive mental health may help protect workers from the effect of workplace stress but only in a small proportion of the population. Therefore, to improve workplace mental health, workplaces need to both prevent stress and promote PMH.

Source: Page, Kathryn M.; Milner, Allison J.; Martin, Angela; Turrell, Gavin; Giles-Corti, Billie; LaMontagne, Anthony D. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: August 2014, Volume 56, Issue 8, p. 814-819.

The Longitudinal Prediction of Costs due to Health Care Uptake and Productivity Losses in a Cohort of Employees With and Without Depression or Anxiety

Objective: To examine how various predictors and subgroups of respondents contribute to the prediction of health care and productivity costs in a cohort of employees.
Methods: We selected 1548 employed people from a cohort study with and without depressive and anxiety symptoms or disorders. Prediction rules, using the RuleFit program, were applied to identify predictors and subgroups of respondents, and to predict estimations of subsequent 1-year health care and productivity costs.
Results: Symptom severity and diagnosis of depression and anxiety were the most important predictors of health care costs. Depressive symptom severity was the most important predictor for productivity costs. Several demographic, social, and work predictors did not predict economic costs.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that from a business perspective it can be beneficial to offer interventions aimed at prevention of depression and anxiety.

Source: Geraedts, Anna S.; Fokkema, Marjolein; Kleiboer, Annet M.; Smit, Filip; Wiezer, Noortje W.; Majo, Maria Cristina; van Mechelen, Willem; Cuijpers, Pim; Penninx, Brenda W. J. H. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: August 2014, Volume 56, Issue 8, p. 794–801.

Information and communication technology use, work intensification and employee strain and distress

Recent scholarship on work suggests that information and communication technology (ICT) use may be significantly altering job conditions in ways that are indicative of work intensification, which, in turn, contributes to employee strain and distress. This article uses structural equation modelling and OLS regression techniques to analyse 2002 survey data drawn from a nationally representative sample of US employees in order to assess the pathways through which ICT use may influence levels of employee strain and distress. It is found that use is linked to higher levels of employee strain and distress via a work intensification process that is indicated by faster-paced work and greater levels of interruptions and multitasking. However, there is also evidence that both work and personal ICT use may mitigate these influences. While the findings do suggest that ICT use can have negative implications for contemporary workers, as a whole the results support a more nuanced view that points to both costs and benefits associated with ICT use.

Source: Noelle Chesley, Work, Employment & Society, August 2014; Vol. 28, No. 4.

Workplace Stress in the United States

Issues and Policies
Despite relative affluence, workplace stress is a prominent feature of the US labour market. To the extent that job stress causes poor health outcomes – either directly through increased blood pressure, fatigue, muscle pain, etc. or indirectly through increased rates of cigarette smoking – policy to lessen job stress may be appropriate. Focusing predominantly on the United States, this report reviews the literature on a variety of economic concerns related to job stress and health. Areas in which economists may provide valuable insights regarding job stress include empirical selection concerns in identifying the effect of stress on health; measurement error with respect to stress; the existence and magnitude of compensating differentials for stress; and the unique "job lock" effect in the United States created by a system of employer-provided health insurance. This report concludes with a brief discussion of US policies related to job stress.

Source: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/workingpaper/5jz0zb5t4532-en

Does job insecurity deteriorate health?

A causal approach for Europe
This paper estimates the causal effect of perceived job insecurity – i.e. the fear of involuntary job loss – on health in a sample of men from 22 European countries. We rely on an original
instrumental variable approach based on the idea that workers perceive greater job security in countries where employment is strongly protected by the law, and relatively more so if employed in industries where employment protection legislation is more binding, i.e. in industries with a higher natural rate of dismissals. Using cross-country data from the 2010 European Working Conditions Survey, we show that when the potential endogeneity of job insecurity is not accounted for, the latter appears to deteriorate almost all health outcomes.
When tackling the endogeneity issue by estimating an IV model and dealing with potential weak-instrument issues, the health-damaging effect of job insecurity is confirmed for a limited
subgroup of health outcomes, namely suffering from headaches or eyestrain and skin problems. As for other health variables, the impact of job insecurity appears to be insignificant at conventional levels.

Source: http://ftp.iza.org/dp8299.pdf

Health, Work and Working Conditions

A Review of the European Economic Literature
Economists have traditionally been very cautious when studying the interaction between employment and health because of the two-way causal relationship between these two variables: health status influences the probability of being employed and, at the same time, working affects the health status. Because these two variables are determined simultaneously, researchers control endogeneity bias (e.g., reverse causality, omitted variables) when conducting empirical analysis. With these caveats in mind, the literature finds that a favourable work environment and high job security lead to better health conditions. Being employed with appropriate working conditions plays a protective role on physical health and psychiatric disorders. By contrast, non-employment and retirement are generally worse for mental health than employment, and overemployment has a negative effect on health. These findings stress the importance of employment and of adequate working conditions for the health of workers. In this context, it is a concern that a significant proportion of European workers (29%) would like to work fewer hours because unwanted long hours are likely to signal a poor level of job satisfaction and inadequate working conditions, with detrimental effects on health. Thus, in Europe, labour-market policy has increasingly paid attention to job sustainability and job satisfaction. The literature clearly invites employers to take better account of the worker preferences when setting the number of hours worked. Overall, a specific "flexicurity" (combination of high employment protection, job satisfaction and active labour-market policies) is likely to have a positive effect on health.

Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jz0zb71xhmr-en

Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE)

Trainees report harassment and assault
Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N?=?666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. These findings suggest that policies emphasizing safety, inclusivity, and collegiality have the potential to improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages. These include better awareness of mechanisms for direct and oblique reporting of harassment and assault and, the implementation of productive response mechanisms when such behaviors are reported. Principal investigators are particularly well positioned to influence workplace culture at their field sites.

Source: Clancy KB, Nelson RG, Rutherford JN, Hinde K. PLoS One. 2014; 9(7): e102172.

Workplace mobbing and bystanders' helping behaviour towards victims

The role of gender, perceived responsibility and anticipated stigma by association 
We examined victims' perceived responsibility and bystanders' anticipated risk of being victimized themselves when others associate them with the victim (stigma by association, SBA) as possible antecedents of bystanders' helping behaviour towards a victim of workplace mobbing, and explored the effects of gender. Guided by the attribution model of social conduct (Weiner, 2006), a 2 × 2 vignette experiment was conducted. Participants were Dutch regional government employees (N = 161). Path analyses generally supported the hypotheses, but showed different results for women and men. In the strong (Vs. weak) responsibility condition, women reported less sympathy and more anger and men only more anger, which resulted in lower helping intention. Additionally, for men the results showed an unexpected direct positive effect of responsibility on helping intention. Furthermore, in the strong SBA condition, women and men reported more fear and men, unexpectedly, more anger. Consequently, helping intention decreased. The findings on gender are discussed in the context of social role theory, gender and emotion. Our findings suggest that to prevent and tackle mobbing, organizations and professionals should be aware of the attributional and emotional processes and gender differences in bystanders' helping behaviour.

Source: Mulder R, Pouwelse M, Lodewijkx H, Bolman C. Int. J. Psychol. 2014; 49(4): 304-312.

Perception of the importance of human-animal interactions on cattle flow and worker safety on Minnesota dairy farms

Proper cattle-handling techniques (stockmanship) are important to ensure calm animals and a safe work environment for dairy workers on farm. The objectives of this study were to (1) assess Minnesota dairy herd owners' attitudes toward stockmanship, its perceived importance for cow comfort and worker health, and the establishment of calm cattle movement; and (2) identify current resources and methods of stockmanship training on Minnesota dairy farms. A stratified-random sample of Minnesota dairy farmers were contacted via mail to participate in a 28-question survey. One hundred eight bovine dairy producers participated. Most commonly, respondents learned their cattle handling skills from family members (42.6%) and 29.9% of producers had participated in previous stockmanship training. Producers thought that the skill of the human handler was the most important factor in establishing good cattle flow. Cattle-handling techniques was the third most common topic for new-employee orientation after training in milking parlor protocols and milking parlor disinfection. Time limitations and language barrier were considered serious challenges for worker training. Work-related injuries were responsible for lost work days in the previous year in 13.3% of dairy herds and 73.3% of those injuries occurred while working with cattle. Producers perceived that cattle-related injuries were predominantly the handler's fault: either because of not paying enough attention to the animal or due to poor cattle handling skills. Facility design was considered the least important for the occurrence of worker injuries. Although no causal inference can be made, herds that had workers who had previously participated in stockmanship training had a 810 ± 378 kg (mean ± standard error of the mean) higher rolling herd average than those that did not, even after adjusting for herd size and bulk tank somatic cell count. However, 50% of respondents were not interested in attending future stockmanship training sessions. In conclusion, cattle handling skills are considered important by Minnesota dairy producers to ensure worker safety and cow flow. Limited availability of time, language barrier, and a perceived lack of training materials were considered challenges during the training of workers on farms.

Source: Sorge US, Cherry C, Bender JB. J. Dairy Sci. 2014; 97(7): 4632-4638.

Chronic artificial blue-enriched white light is an effective countermeasure to delayed circadian phase and neurobehavioral decrements

Studies in Polar Base stations, where personnel have no access to sunlight during winter, have reported circadian misalignment, free-running of the sleep-wake rhythm, and sleep problems. Here we tested light as a countermeasure to circadian misalignment in personnel of the Concordia Polar Base station during the polar winter. We hypothesized that entrainment of the circadian pacemaker to a 24-h light-dark schedule would not occur in all crew members (n?=?10) exposed to 100-300 lux of standard fluorescent white (SW) light during the daytime, and that chronic non-time restricted daytime exposure to melanopsin-optimized blue-enriched white (BE) light would establish an a stable circadian phase, in participants, together with increased cognitive performance and mood levels. The lighting schedule consisted of an alternation between SW lighting (2 weeks), followed by a BE lighting (2 weeks) for a total of 9 weeks. Rest-activity cycles assessed by actigraphy showed a stable rest-activity pattern under both SW and BE light. No difference was found between light conditions on the intra-daily stability, variability and amplitude of activity, as assessed by non-parametric circadian analysis. As hypothesized, a significant delay of about 30 minutes in the onset of melatonin secretion occurred with SW, but not with BE light. BE light significantly enhanced well being and alertness compared to SW light. We propose that the superior efficacy of blue-enriched white light versus standard white light involves melanopsin-based mechanisms in the activation of the non-visual functions studied, and that their responses do not dampen with time (over 9-weeks). This work could lead to practical applications of light exposure in working environment where background light intensity is chronically low to moderate (polar base stations, power plants, space missions, etc.), and may help design lighting strategies to maintain health, productivity, and personnel safety.

Source: Najjar RP, Wolf L, Taillard J, Schlangen LJ, Salam A, Cajochen C, Gronfier C. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 29; 9 (7).

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