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Workers' perception of chemical risks: a focus group study

(2011) RISK ANALYSIS. 31(2). p.335-342
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Abstract
Workers' perceptions with respect to health and safety at work are rarely taken into account when considering the development of prevention programs. The aim of this study was to explore workers' perceptions of chemical risks at the workplace, in order to investigate the prerequisites for a workplace health program. A qualitative study was conducted involving seven focus groups of 5-10 participants (blue-collar workers) each. All groups were homogeneous in terms of sex, work status, language, and company membership. Results showed that several factors have an important influence on workers' perception of chemical risks. Workers assess risks by means of both sensory and empirical diagnosis and are concerned about the long-term health consequences. They perceive the threat of chemical risks as high. Despite this, they are resigned to accepting the risks. Existing formal sources of information are rarely consulted because they are judged to be difficult to understand and not user friendly. instead, workers tend to obtain information from informal sources. Communication problems with and lack of trust in prevention advisers and hierarchy are frequently mentioned. Workers feel that their specific knowledge of their working conditions and their proposals for practical, cost-effective solutions to improve health and safety at the workplace are insufficiently taken into account. The use of focus groups yielded a useful insight into workers' perceptions of chemical risks. Our findings suggest that training programs for prevention advisers should include topics such as understanding of workers' perceptions, usefulness of a participatory approach, and communication and education skills.
Keywords
WORKPLACE, PROTECTION, MENTAL MODELS, BEHAVIOR, HEALTH, CARE, TRUST, workers' perception, focus group discussion, Chemical risks, EXPOSURE, INDUSTRY

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Citation

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Chicago
Hambach, Ramona, Philippe Mairiaux, Guido François, Lutgart Braeckman, Alain Balsat, Guido Van Hal, Chantal Vandoorne, Paul Van Royen, and Marc van Sprundel. 2011. “Workers’ Perception of Chemical Risks: a Focus Group Study.” Risk Analysis 31 (2): 335–342.
APA
Hambach, R., Mairiaux, P., François, G., Braeckman, L., Balsat, A., Van Hal, G., Vandoorne, C., et al. (2011). Workers’ perception of chemical risks: a focus group study. RISK ANALYSIS, 31(2), 335–342.
Vancouver
1.
Hambach R, Mairiaux P, François G, Braeckman L, Balsat A, Van Hal G, et al. Workers’ perception of chemical risks: a focus group study. RISK ANALYSIS. 2011;31(2):335–42.
MLA
Hambach, Ramona, Philippe Mairiaux, Guido François, et al. “Workers’ Perception of Chemical Risks: a Focus Group Study.” RISK ANALYSIS 31.2 (2011): 335–342. Print.
@article{1264907,
  abstract     = {Workers' perceptions with respect to health and safety at work are rarely taken into account when considering the development of prevention programs. The aim of this study was to explore workers' perceptions of chemical risks at the workplace, in order to investigate the prerequisites for a workplace health program. A qualitative study was conducted involving seven focus groups of 5-10 participants (blue-collar workers) each. All groups were homogeneous in terms of sex, work status, language, and company membership. Results showed that several factors have an important influence on workers' perception of chemical risks. Workers assess risks by means of both sensory and empirical diagnosis and are concerned about the long-term health consequences. They perceive the threat of chemical risks as high. Despite this, they are resigned to accepting the risks. Existing formal sources of information are rarely consulted because they are judged to be difficult to understand and not user friendly. instead, workers tend to obtain information from informal sources. Communication problems with and lack of trust in prevention advisers and hierarchy are frequently mentioned. Workers feel that their specific knowledge of their working conditions and their proposals for practical, cost-effective solutions to improve health and safety at the workplace are insufficiently taken into account. The use of focus groups yielded a useful insight into workers' perceptions of chemical risks. Our findings suggest that training programs for prevention advisers should include topics such as understanding of workers' perceptions, usefulness of a participatory approach, and communication and education skills.},
  author       = { Hambach, Ramona and Mairiaux, Philippe  and Fran\c{c}ois, Guido  and Braeckman, Lutgart and Balsat, Alain and Van Hal, Guido  and Vandoorne, Chantal  and Van Royen, Paul  and van Sprundel, Marc },
  issn         = {0272-4332},
  journal      = {RISK ANALYSIS},
  keyword      = {WORKPLACE,PROTECTION,MENTAL MODELS,BEHAVIOR,HEALTH,CARE,TRUST,workers' perception,focus group discussion,Chemical risks,EXPOSURE,INDUSTRY},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {335--342},
  title        = {Workers' perception of chemical risks: a focus group study},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01489.x},
  volume       = {31},
  year         = {2011},
}

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