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Occupational Health Psychology Chapter 11 Asta Rockwood
Definition Occupational Health Psychology (OHP), an emerging subfield of psychology that is concerned with psychological factors that contribute to occupational health and well-being. It deals with psychological reactions to physical and nonphysical work conditions, as well as behavior that has implications for health
Physical conditions affecting health and safety Infectious Disease Employees who must deal with the public may be exposed to infectious disease, although most such cases result in relatively minor illnesses, such as cold and flu. ( hairstylist, police officers, sales clerk, health care professionals) Loud Noise Loud noise occurs at many jobs, particularly involving heavy equipment or machinery. The intensity of noise is measured in decibel units. Exposure to extremely loud noise, such as explosions, can severely damage a person’s sense of hearing, sometimes permanently. There is an evidence suggestive of a link between noise exposure at work and cardiovascular disease
Physical Assaults The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that workplace violence (including suicide) was the third leading cause of workplace fatalities in 2002. Despite the media attention paid to shootings by postal employees and other extreme cases of such violence, such incidents are rather rare. Repetetive Actions Many jobs require repeated physical actions of various body parts. Repetetive actions can result in repetitive strain injuries, in which the body parts involved can become inflated and permanently damaged. Repetetive strain injuries can be reduced by proper design of tools and equipment, and by taking frequent rest breaks.
Temperature Extremes People who work outdoors can be subject to extremes of hot and cold weather, depending on the climates in which they live. Such conditions can be threats to health, and employees have been known to die of extreme weather conditions. Extreme conditions such as intense heat will eventually lead to physical exhaustion and heat stress that will interfere with job performance. Toxic Substances The exposure of employees to toxic substances has been given more and more attention as research has shown how such substances affect health. The problem with exposure to many substances is that adverse health effects, such as cancer, can take many years to develop.
Work Schedules Whereas most employed people work standard schedules of approximately 8 daylight hours per day during weekdays, the use of nonstandard schedules involving longer work shift, nights, and weekends is spreading. I/O psychologists have been interested in three types of schedules: - Night shifts, - Long work shifts, - Flextime
Night Shifts Many organizations such as hospitals and police departments, run 24 hours per day and requires the use of two or three shifts of workers to cover the entire day. The major health problem with working night shifts is that the typical sleep-waking cycle is disturbed. Associated with this cycle include body temperature changes and changes in hormone level in the bloodstream. The most obvious health problem in working night shifts is sleep disturbance – either being unable to fall asleep or having a poor quality of sleep. Digestive system problems have been shown to be more frequent in night-shift workers. In addition to causing health problems, shift work can cause social problems as well. Having to work nights and sleep days can isolate a person from family and friends.
Long Shifts Many organizations have implemented longer shifts. For example, truck and bus drivers may have routes that can not be completed in 8 hours. One important difficulty with the long day is fatigue. A 10 to 12 hours day can be quite tiring if the work is mentally or physically demanding. On the other hand many employees like the longer days because it gives the more usable free time per week and reduces commuting costs. Working in excess of 48 hours per week has been shown to relate to health, including heart disease
Flexible work schedules Fixed daily work schedules are still the norm, but increasingly, organizations have been trying flexible schedules, known as flextime, that allow workers to determine, at least in part, the hours of the day that they work. From the organization’s perspective, an advantage of a flexible work schedule is that it allows employees to take care of personal business on their own time rather that on work time. Relations with job performance and satisfaction have been les consistent. Job satisfaction was slightly higher with flextime, but the magnitude of effect was small. Individuals with greater family responsibilities will likely benefit from the greater flexibility
Occupational Stress To understand occupational stress, it is necessary to understand several concepts that are involved in the stress process. A job stressor is a condition or situation at work that requires an adaptive response on the part of the employee. A job strain is a potential aversive reaction by an employee to a stressor, such as anxiety, frustration, or physical symptom such as headache. Srains can be categorized as Psychological reactions (Anger, Anxiety, Frustration) Physical Reactions (Dizziness, Headache, Pounding Heart) Behavioral reactions ( Accidents, Smoking)
Job Stressors Many aspects of the work environment can be stressful. Some conditions that occur across most jobs, such as conflicts with coworkers or heavy workloads. Others are specific to a particular to occupation. Role Ambiguity and Role Conflict It is the extent to which employee are unclear about what their job functions and responsibilities are supposed to be Workload Workload concerns the work demands that the job places on an employee and it can be two types: - Quantitative, amount of work employee has and Qualitative, is the difficulty of work relative to a person’s capabilities. Social Stressors It means being able to get along well with other people is an important element in well being, and failing to get along can be a serious source of strain. Control Control is the extent to which employee are able to make decisions about their work. Such decisions involve all aspects of work.
Occupational Accidents Accidents are the leading cause of death among American from 1 to 37 old and the fourth leading cause of death for all ages. One of the major accomplishments of the 20 th century in the United States was reducing the workplace accident rate by 90% so that today, most accidents occur of job. Preventing accidents has been a major concern because of both employee and organization costs. It has been estimated that U.S workplace accidents costs a total of 131.2 billion in 2000.
Burnout Burnout is a distressed psychological state that and employee might experience after being on the job for a period of time. It is like being depressed about work and having little energy and enthusiasm for the job. There are three components of burnout Emotional Exhaustion It is a feeling of tiredness and fatigue at work Depersonalization It is development of a cynical and callous feeling towards others Reduced personal accomplishments It is a feeling that the employee is not accomplishing anything worthwhile at work
Future Issues and Challenges In the future it seems likely that students will choose OHP as an occupation in which they help organizations maintain the health and well-being of employees through the use of tools from a variety of sub areas of psychology, including clinical, human factors and I/O The idea of the healthy work organizations recognizes that many steps can be taken to enhance the health of both employees and organizations together. A final challenge for the future is finding ways to help people cope with new technologies. As computerization continues to spread, new health related problems will arise We need to understand better the physical and psychological effects of working with computerized technologies and how to reduce any negative effects that may be found.