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The role of social networks in workplace injuries.

Myers-DJ; Kriebel-D; Karasek-R; Punnett-L; Wegman-DH
NIOSH 2004 Aug; :1-181
The objective of this study was to explore the role of informal social ties among healthcare workers in the risk of injury and assault in the workplace. The main hypothesis was that groups of workers that had greater worker cohesion in the form of friendship and "helper" ties have lower rates of injuries and assaults. A cohort of nurses and Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) working in a dual diagnosis (psychiatric and medical) facility was followed for sixteen months. Social network methods (sociometrics) were used to quantify informal social relations among study participants. Study results indicated that physical demands in the form of resident lifting (log of lifts per shift) and resident combativeness (log of combative events per shift) were important predictors of injuries and assaults respectively (for injuries OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 1.1, 1.7, for assaults OR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.1, 1.6). Results showed little support for the original hypothesis. However, this was likely due, in part, to poor survey response. To overcome poor survey response, a "workgroup regular" variable was created using available shift schedule data to measure worker integration without using individual survey responses. This variable identified which workers had repeatedly worked on the same floor and shift in the previous two months (on average) and were working on their usual floor for any given shift. The workgroup regular variable was positively associated with risk of injury and assault (for injury OR = 1.7, 95%, CI = 1.0, 2.7, for assault OR = 2.0, 95% CI = 1.3, 3.2). A new hypothesis was generated suggesting that the culture of caring among nurses may have led integrated workers to take more risks in the form of greater resident contact than non-integrated workers. It was recommended that more research be done on this subject and that the culture of work be considered in future attempts to understand the social dynamics of the workplace and how these may affect safety in the workplace.
Injury-prevention; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Nurses; Nursing; Occupational-hazards; Medical-personnel; Health-care-personnel; Health-care-facilities; Workers; Worker-health; Occupational-health; Occupational-health-nursing; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Sociological-factors
Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854
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Final Grant Report
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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University of Massachusetts - Lowell