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WOQUAL Project

Health and safety for work quality (WOQUAL) project


WOQUAL is funded by the Belgian federal science policy (Programme "Society and the Future", grant TA/00/33)

Pr Dr William D'hoore, coordinator

Ms Sandrine Roussel
Pr Annie Robert
Université catholique de Louvain
30 Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs box 3037
1200 Brussels

Pr Dr Lut Braeckman
Pr Peter Vlerick
Ms Hanne Derycke
Universiteit Gent
H. Dunantlaan 2
9000 Ghent

Pr Nathalie Burnay
Ms Céline Decleire
Faculté universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix
5000 Namur

Pr Dr Hans-Martin Hasselhorn
Dr Li Jian
Mr Michael Galatsch
University of Wuppertal
Gauss Strasse
42097 Wuppertal

Over the past few decades, the nature of work has undergone significant changes.  While traditional risks remain significant, new risks involving psychological stress and overload are becoming increasingly important, i.e. (1) psychosocial risks resulting from the changing organisation of work including the advantages (flexitime) and disadvantages (work intensity) of flexibility, non-traditional work schedules, non-traditional work location (home work), and job insecurity; (2) the increasing difficulty to manage the interface between work and non-work situations, and the contribution of organisational changes and flexibility practices to work life / private life imbalance; (3) stress-related factors: effort-reward imbalance, aggressiveness and violent behaviours from clients, harassment from superiors and colleagues.  As a consequence, health issues at the workplace have become more complex.  Firstly, the changing organisation of work and emerging psychosocial problems have potential effects on mental and physical health, future work ability and withdrawal from work.  Secondly, traditional risks interact with psychosocial factors leading to occupational diseases such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).  International surveys identify MSD and stress as being responsible for a large proportion of the working days lost due to illness. These two factors are so closely interrelated that they are best tackled together.  Thirdly, there is reciprocal influence of work and health, e.g. the bi-directional relationship between work and depression (Burton et al., 2004; Wilhelm, 2004).

Workers health is determined not only by occupational risks, but also by inequalities in vulnerability, which is linked to personal and social characteristics, such as age, gender, education as shown in the Health Interview Survey (2004).  Consequently, improvement of the health of workers requires a holistic approach, combining occupational health and safety with health promotion (WHO, 2006). OSH management strategies would be differentiated enough to reduce health inequalities between workers, considering that strategies used to counteract risk factors have a different impact on worker health, according e.g. to age or gender (Plaisier et al., 2006). Moreover, there is a clear need for longitudinal surveys on health at work to design policies aimed at reducing work-related inequalities and preventing health risks in specific groups and occupations (OSHA, 2005; Schulte, 2006).
The project WoQual focuses on the understanding of impact of emerging risks and vulnerability on workers health, in order to strengthen the basis to develop systematic and comprehensive policy strategies to improve workers health and work ability. The present research project (WoQual) is a longitudinal study (one year follow-up), using a large database from the European Nurses Early Exit Study, which include extensive information regarding working conditions, psychological and physical health, and work ability. Nurses best suit the study of complex OSH issues: they are highly exposed to a wide range of physical and psychological hazards (infectious, chemical, and physical agents; lifting, bending and repetitive tasks; stress; workplace violence; direct contact with "clients"; unsocial working hours); they experienced an increasing work intensification over the last decade; they are mostly female; they work in a variety of settings (hospitals, long-term care, home care); the physical and psychosocial strain of health care work hampers healthy ageing and is especially demanding for aged nurses. According to the WHO Report 2006, it is crucial to improve working conditions of this professional group to sustain health care systems.

WoQual is an opportunity to combine the expertise of organisational psychologists, occupational physicians and public health researchers in a unique project and to investigate the impact of identified risks on workers health over time, focusing on health professionals in hospitals, nursing homes and home care, the latter having received much less attention.
Expected results include (1) the identification of emerging risks; (2) the identification of vulnerable groups (female vs. male, aged vs. younger, educated vs. less skilled); (3) new knowledge about the effect of psychosocial and physical risks on workers mental and physical health, according to vulnerability.  The assessment of the effects of identified risks on mental and physical health may form the basis for targeted workplace health and well-being promotion to sustain work ability and employability of diverse working groups.   

Last update: 2009/06/09 - 13:20
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