Occupational health research round-up: January 2016

A study of dermatitis shows an association between healthcare and two chemicals used in the sector.

This month’s occupational health research papers look at topics including skin sensitisation in healthcare and the impact on wellbeing of control over work.

Skin sensitisation in healthcare

Healthcare employment is regarded as a risk factor for occupational skin disease. Employees in healthcare can be exposed to disinfectants, soaps, detergents and latex, and are required to wash their hands frequently during the course of their work. A study of Italian workers suggests that there is a significant association between healthcare work, hand or forearm dermatitis and sensitisation to two particular chemicals prevalent in the sector: formaldehyde and p-phenylenediamine (an agent used in hair dye).

Prodi A et al. “Healthcare workers and skin sensitization: north-eastern Italian database”. Occupational Medicine, first published online 28 October 2015.

Job control and wellbeing

An OH intervention designed to enable participants to control a single job demand enhances wellbeing, according to a study of 70 German nurses. The training implemented as part of the intervention, which was based on a model involving selection, optimisation and compensation, was particularly effective for nurses reporting low job control at work. The authors conclude that this type of training “might be a promising approach to occupational health and stress prevention”.

Muller A et al. “Improving wellbeing at work: a randomised controlled intervention based on selection, optimization and compensation”. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, first published online 31 August 2015.

Organisational climate and workplace violence

A strong violence-prevention climate in an organisation is associated with a decreased likelihood of violence and abuse taking place, according to a longitudinal study of 126 newly-qualified nurses. Multivariate analyses also showed that being exposed to violence or abuse did not affect an individual’s perception of the organisation’s violence-prevention climate. It also failed to find evidence that such exposure resulted in an increase in strain over time. The authors conclude, therefore, that the direction of effect is from the violence prevention climate to violence or abuse, but not the reverse, so that “climate should be a target for interventions designed to keep employees safe from both forms of mistreatment.”

Spector PE et al. “A longitudinal investigation of the role of violence prevention climate in exposure to workplace physical violence and verbal abuse”. Work & Stress, first published online 15 October 2015.

Family support and employee health

The type of support that employees get from being involved in family life affects the role that this support plays in stress reduction, according to a study of 330 acute care nurses. For example, the relationship between family life and health outcomes, including depression and musculoskeletal pain, was significant for workers with dependent children, but not for workers without children. The findings demonstrate that family support may benefit some employees more than others, and that these differences need to be taken account of in developing family-supportive policies and programmes in the workplace.

Jennings KS et al. “Who benefits from family support? Work schedule and family differences”. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, first published online 31 August 2015.

Customer incivility

Supportive, transformational line management is effective in buffering the harmful effects on employee health caused by dealing with uncivil customers, according to a study of 215 employees in the service sector. Finding meaning in work and perspective taking were initially identified as possible additional buffering factors, but were found not to moderate the relationship between incivility and employee wellbeing.

Arnold KA and Walsh MM. “Customer incivility and employee wellbeing: testing the moderating effects of meaning, perspective taking and transformational leadership”. Work & Stress, first published online 19 October 2015.

Workplace burden and anxiety

Employees with work anxiety describe their workplace significantly more negatively than those without anxiety and employees in the general population, according to a study of 148 in-patients and 8,105 population controls. This suggests that self-reports of workplace burdens might be indicative of work anxiety, and should prompt further in-depth assessments, the authors suggest.

Muschalla B et al. “Self-reported workplace perception as indicators of work anxieties”. Occupational Medicine, first published online 28 October 2015.

Diesel engine exhaust and DNA damage

Exposure to diesel engine exhaust induces DNA damage, which might make the latter a useful early biomarker for risk assessment of diesel exposure, according to a study of 101 male diesel engine testing workers and 106 matched controls. DNA strand breaks among the engine workers were significantly higher than the control group, and in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner

Huawei D et al. “Long-term exposure to diesel engine exhaust induces primary DNA damage: a population-based study”. Occupational & Environmental Medicine, first published online 21 October 2015.

Injury reporting and time-off work

Cutting the time taken to report a workplace injury and to receive medical care may help to decrease the length of resulting time off work, according to an analysis of US workers’ compensation claims. In general, shorter lag times were related to shorter periods of disability and to time off work for an occupational low back injury, the study concludes

Besen E et al. “Lag times in reporting injuries, receiving medical care and missing work: associations with the length of work disability in occupational back injuries”. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, first published online 5 October 2015.

Depression and early labour force exit

Women with a history of anxiety or depression are 37% more likely to drop out of the labour force before retirement age, compared with women without prior mental ill health, even after controlling for age, socioeconomic and marital status, according to a longitudinal analysis of Baltimore workers. The association for men was not statistically significant. The authors suggest that their findings may help explain previously reported lower earnings among women with a history of mental ill health and highlight the importance of considering anxiety and depression in policies to support greater labour force participation.

Rudolph KE and Eaton WW. “Previous anxiety and depression as risk factors for early labour force exit”. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, first published online 28 October 2015.

Psychosocial work stressors

Chronic exposure to psychosocial work stressors, including effortreward imbalance leads to a higher risk of hypertension in men, compared with a control group of men who have never been exposed to stress, according to a prospective cohort study of white-collar workers

Trudel X et al. “Adverse psychosocial work factors, blood pressure and hypertension incidence: repeated exposure in a 5-year prospective cohort study”. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, first published online 3 November 2015.

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