ESRA 2019 Programme at a Glance

How to Survey Health and Safety at Work in the Changing World of Work? Theory, Challenges, and Practice 2

Session Organisers Mrs Marine Cavet (Prevention and Research Unit - European Agency for Health and Safety at Work)
Mr Maurizio Curtarelli (Prevention and Research Unit - European Agency for Health and Safety at Work)
Mr Xabier Irastorza (Prevention and Research Unit - European Agency for Health and Safety at Work)
TimeThursday 18th July, 14:00 - 15:30
Room D23

The aim of the session is gathering international researchers in the field of health and safety at work (OSH) and OSH-related fields of working conditions or public health to present and discuss methodological issues, examples of surveys and innovative survey and research methodologies, including combining data from different sources. Traditionally employers’ surveys are conducted to investigate OSH regulation compliance, risks prevention, types of initiatives adopted to retain workers with ill-health or chronic diseases or to promote return to work of workers after an accident or sickness, and workers’ surveys are conducted to investigate the impact of work and working conditions or the exposure to risks on workers’ health. Nevertheless, fully reliable data on occupational and work-related health issues are still an issue, statistics on occupational diseases are not fully satisfactory and far from being comparable across countries, and there is still a lack of consensus about agreed definitions on what is ‘occupational’ and what is ‘work-related’ in order to measure it in a sound, reliable and comparable way. In addition, the new forms of work, the increasing digitalisation of work tasks, the growing polarisation of the labour market with an increase of highly-skilled (desk-based) jobs and low or non-skilled (manual) jobs, the 'bad' jobs in which growing inflows of migrant workers are segregated, are all factors which impact on health, have implications in terms of prevention and pose new challenges of measurement, sampling, getting access to respondents and ensure cross-country comparability. Examples of questions to be responded in this session are: how to get access to employers with a poor OSH protection performance who are reluctant to respond a survey? How to sample and get access to workers who are exposed to specific types of risks or have particularly poor working conditions which impact on their health? How to get access to and survey migrant workers, especially those not legal or those in particularly exploitative working contexts? How to ensure comparability across countries? How to combine survey data and administrative data e.g. in the area of return-to-work? Are employers-employees surveys a good tool to have a broader perspective on OSH? What are the best survey modes to survey OSH, considering that health is a sensitive topic? How to measure the impact of new forms of work and digital technologies on health, also in terms of psychosocial risk?

Keywords: occupational health and safety, new forms of work, employers' surveys, workers' surveys

The Big Picture: Understanding Occupational Exposures on a National Scale

Professor Lin Fritschi (Curtin University) - Presenting Author

Prevention of occupational disease is challenging as there are a huge number of agents which cause disease, and each agent may be present in many different jobs and used in different tasks. In order to target prevention efforts to where they would be most effective, we need to understand exposure patterns on a national scale.
We have completed a series of cross-sectional telephone studies of workers to estimate exposures to carcinogens, asthmagens and noise. In these studies, we identify a random sample of workers and ask them their job and main tasks. Based on this information we choose the most appropriate job module in our online software OccIDEAS. Each job module contains detailed questions about tasks which are done in that job. The answers to these questions are linked (using algorithms based on literature) to an assessment of whether the workers is exposed to each agent.
A challenge we faced with using this method has been the high proportion of calls to subjects who are ineligible, usually because there is no-one in the house who is currently working. In addition, it is difficult to identify all the situations where a worker may be exposed and to find evidence of the level of exposure.
However, we have found that people can answer the questions we ask, that the overall findings match the expected patterns of exposure, and that we can translate and deliver the questions in languages other than English. Because we are approaching workers directly, we do not need to gain employer permission, and we can include sole traders and small businesses. Our method is a practical way to obtain an overall picture of disease-related exposures in a country or a subgroup (e.g. migrant workers, or manufacturing workers).

A Workers’ Survey on Exposure to Carcinogens in the European Union: Utility, Reliability and Feasibility

Ms Marine Cavet (EU_OSHA) - Presenting Author

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The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) looked at the feasibility of carrying a survey on exposure to carcinogens in Europe, following the model of the Australian Workers Exposure Survey (AWES) based on a web-based application to assess occupational exposure in epidemiological studies (OccIDEAS). On this basis, the main limitations of a ‘conventional’ workers’ survey would not apply. Indeed there is no individual reporting bias and the survey population can be broader, including hard-to-reach workers (e.g. self-employed, family workers, workers in MSEs).
More than half of work-related fatalities are related to cancer and they represent a major avoidable burden on society. This survey would be useful to provide additional data on exposure to carcinogens complementary to existing sources, in particular data collected with a harmonised method across Europe. This presentation aims at providing an overview of the possible methodology and discussing the strengths and weaknesses behind the different choices.
There is apparently a scientific consensus regarding:
- the feasibility of running a robust exposure survey;
- the value of the anticipated results in terms of their reliability;
- the extent to which such results would meet a widely-identified need;
- the absence of a viable alternative to meeting this need.
Three alternative options for survey implementation would be possible:
1) Complete coverage (all countries) at a limited depth (small sample sizes);
2) Incomplete coverage (a representative selection of countries) at full depth (comprehensive sample sizes);
3) Complete coverage (all countries) at full depth (comprehensive sample sizes).
Considering that the size of the sample determines the utility of the survey (limitations of analysis), the middle option would be implemented by EU-OSHA in a first phase. This could lead to complete coverage of participating countries across more than one survey rounds.

Female Migrants Workers in Padua: How to Survey Their Health and Safety at Work

Dr Francesca Alice Vianello (University of Padua)
Dr Federica Zaccagnini (University of Padua) - Presenting Author

A large body of literature highlights the great difficulty in studying immigrants’ health.
Immigrants’ health is a more complex concept that includes a physical and psychological perspective and requires to analyse several dimensions. Furthermore, such dimensions have to be analysed taking into account the time immigrants spend in host country.
It is useful to start by considering that immigrants’ health is influenced by: 1) the experience of migration per se; 2) the journey; 3) the living and working conditions they experience in the host country (Vianello, 2018); 4) important individual circumstances and socio-geographic sources of health related with pre-migration experience (Marcelli, 2015).
Our paper aims to analyse the challenges to survey the health of female migrant employed in low or non-skilled (traditional) jobs and in particular domestic jobs as care workers, home care assistants, etc.
Taking inspiration from a survey recently conducted in Padova (Italia) on such population, we want to discuss the following problems dealing with: 1) the construction of the questionnaire (i.e., how to isolate the variables that really influence health at work, how to include all variables that imply better or worse health at work and how to take into account the time); 2) how to make the questionnaire answerable for foreigner people with limited knowledge of the host language; 3) how to include gender considerations.