Occupational health research round-up: May 2019

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Short breaks between nurses’ shifts linked to workplace accidents

Being provided with only a short break, defined as less than 11 hours, between shifts, and working night shifts regardless of the length of break, are both associated with a higher risk of work-related accidents, according to this study of nurses. A quick return to work after a shift break is associated with nurses causing harm to themselves, patients and equipment, whilst night shifts are associated with nurses involuntarily dozing off at work or whilst travelling to and from work. The study is based on data from 1,784 nurses in Norway.

Vedaa A et al. “Short rest between shifts (quick returns) and night work is associated with work-related accidents”, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, published online 16 March 2019.

Reducing workplace stress…naturally

Exposure to the outdoors and nature at work could be an effective weapon in the stress reduction armoury, according to this interdisciplinary study of urban workers in the USA. Exposure to nature has been demonstrated to have beneficial, restorative effects on the human body and cognition. This study explores the relationship between exposure to nature at work and workplace strain outcomes, demonstrating significant relationships between the former and lower levels of burnout, job dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms.

Thompson  A and Bruk-Lee V. “Naturally! Examining nature’s role in workplace strain reduction”, Occupational Health Science, published online 5 March 2019.

Team behaviour and stress appraisal

How individuals evaluate and cope with workplace stress – stress appraisal – is impacted by group or team factors in additional to individual ones, according to this study of 43 work teams. It concludes that the ability of a team to prevent problems moderates how individuals perceive the stress associated with these problem-solving demands. The authors conclude that there is scope for “stress management interventions to utilise team-level strategies such as leadership development programmes and/or team building initiatives.”

Espedido A et al. “Peers, proactivity and problem-solving: a multilevel study of team impacts on stress appraisals of problem-solving demands”, Work & Stress, published online 7 March 2019.

Forceful handgrip exposure and RNE surgery

Occupational exposure to forceful handgrip work and hand-arm vibration increases the risk of radial nerve entrapment (RNE) surgery, according to this longitudinal study of Swedish construction workers. The total incidence rate for surgically treated RNE over the 13-year observation period was 3.53 cases per 100,000 person years; those whose jobs required them to use elevated hand-grip force, and those exposed to hand-harm vibration, were at particular risk of this type of surgery.

Jackson J A et al. “Occupational biomechanical risk factors for radial nerve entrapment in a 13-year prospective study among male construction workers”, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, published online 8 March 2019.

Personal and social factors in rehabilitation

A range of personal and social factors have a positive and negative influence on sustainable return-to-work, according to this systematic literature of 79 studies. Factors with the most consistent evidence for a sustainable return following either mental ill health or a musculoskeletal disorder are: support from line managers, supervisors and co-workers, a positive attitude from the individual employee, self-efficacy, youth and a high education level. In particular, the interaction between these factors appears to have a positive impact on rehabilitation outcomes, although the authors call for further research into the role of job crafting, economic status/income, length of absence and job security.

Etuknwa A and Eib K D C. “Sustainable return to work: a systematic review focusing on personal and social factors”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 15 February 2019.

Emotion-regulation and stress perception

Soldiers in the early stages of their career who have a more developed sense of emotion-regulation report lower levels of stress, according to this study of 492 German soldiers. This group has a tendency to use more effective emotion-regulation strategies, such as reappraisal, the study finds. However, it also finds that emotion-regulation is not a significant predictor of perceived stress for soldiers later in their careers.

Schall M and Schutz A. “Emotion-regulation knowledge predicts perceived stress early but not later in soldiers’ careers”, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 12 March 2019.

Balancing work, family and self: the Health-Life Agreement

In recent years, the concept of a Health-Life Agreement (HLA) has been developed as a means of measuring the extent to which an individual balances work, family and self without experiencing negative emotions. This study seeks to develop a scale to measure the construct of an effective HLA, producing four basic categories of life satisfaction: harmonious, carefree, exhausted and non-harmonious. The authors find that harmonious people score highest in positive outcomes such as health-promoting lifestyle behaviours and life satisfaction, whilst those in the non-harmonious group score highest in outcomes such as intention to leave work and aggression in relationships.

Gulseren D B and Aycan Z. “Health-life agreement: conceptualization of a new construct and measurement”, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, published online 5 March 2019.

Returning to work after brain injury

Employers and occupational health practitioners need to address personal and activity-related issues in addition to the medical details of a worker’s case when developing rehabilitation plans for those with acquired brain injuries, according to this Swedish study. For example, personal risk markers for not returning to work after such an injury include being a woman, having a low education level and not having children in the household. Activity-related risk factors include a low ability to look after oneself, an inability to perform usual daily tasks following injury and not possessing a driver’s licence.

Materne M et al. “Risk markers for not returning to work among patients with acquired brain injury: a population-based register study”, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, published online 4 March 2019.

Weekend working and depressive symptoms

Men and women who work most, or all, weekends, report a higher number of symptoms of depression, according to this longitudinal study of UK workers. Working only some weekends (compared to no weekends) is related to the reporting of more depressive symptoms amongst men, but not women. Conversely, women who work more than 55 hours a week report more depressive symptoms than those working 35-40 hour week, but no such pattern is observed for men.

Weston G et al. “Long work hours, weekend working and depressive symptoms in men and women: findings from a UK population-based study”, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, published online 15 March 2019.

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