Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

The Impact of Occupational Hazard Information on Employee Health and Safety: An Analysis by Professional Sectors in Spain

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

The Impact of Occupational Hazard Information on Employee Health and Safety: An Analysis by Professional Sectors in Spain

Article excerpt

Introduction

Technological development, economic growth, social evolution and technical progress in recent times have led to improvements in occupational conditions, making possible safer and healthier environments at companies. The occupational accident figures, however, continue to be alarming. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated that 6,000 workers around the world die every day from work-related diseases and accidents. (1) In Spain, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene (INSHT) there were a total of 627,876 occupational accidents resulting in medical leaves, and 556 fatal incidents) in 2010. (2) The prevention of work hazards in companies, thus, takes on special importance.

Occupational hazards are understood to encompass the series of activities and measures aimed at protecting workers' health and safety, encouraging them to adopt behaviors and attitudes favoring prevention in their daily actions at work. Hazard prevention is a very broad concept which includes different spheres in the occupational setting, Herrero et al. (3) highlight four fundamental pillars upon which occupational hazard prevention rests in companies: management commitment, hazard control and management, training and communication, and, finally, worker participation.

As information is a fundamental cornerstone of hazard prevention, European directives with regards to safety and health in occupational settings established this as a right held by workers. European Directive 89/391/EEC contains the general legal framework upon which Community-based prevention policy is based, standing as the instrument for active compliance by European Union member states. The transposition into Spanish law of the EU Directive is Law 31/1995 on the Prevention of Occupational Hazards. According to Article 18, on information, it indicates that employers must take appropriate measures so that workers receive all necessary information regarding: hazards threatening workers' safety and health, protection and prevention measures, and activities applicable to such hazards and the emergency measures adopted.

Numerous studies conveyed in their analyses the importance of information and communication with regards to those hazards to which workers are exposed as a determining factor in organizations' safety levels. (4-7) Thomas (8) stated that the best way employers have to protect their workers is to be very active in their communications with regards to hazards, as information makes their employees conscious of those to which they are exposed, and the need to protect themselves. Along the same line, Cecaro et al. (9) pointed out the crucial role of communication with regards to employees' safety-related behaviors and improving the effectiveness of companies' prevention services.

In terms of sectors, companies dedicated to Construction are the most studied in this regard, as Construction is one of the sectors most susceptible to employee accidents.10 Workers in this sector have an informal and oral culture with regards to communicating about hazards. Various studies underscore the impact of preventive information on increases in safety levels in the Construction sector. (11), (12) In the Agricultural sector, meanwhile, Farquhar et al. (13) pointed to the difficulties workers have accessing information due to the temporary nature of these activities and the diverse languages of the laborers participating in the different agricultural campaigns.

Other studies stated that, in addition to having information on prevention, its transmission must be effective. (14,15) For Farid (14) effective communication is the key term and issue here. The right information must be given to the right people, in the right way. For information to be useful to workers, they need to internalize it, making it part of their actions. The information workers receive should influence their attitudes, knowledge, beliefs and, hence, their behavior. …

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