Dr. C.U. Okeafor
Dept. of Mental Health/Neuropsychiatry,
Univ. of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
Hospitals are places of treatment and healing for patients, however, they may present a significant number of hazards to the health care workers, which could negatively impact on their health and safety. Health care workers are exposed to one of the most hazardous occupational settings.1,2
Occupational hazards refer to workplace factors, which have a potential to cause harm, injury or ill health.2,3 These hazards could be physical, chemical, mechanical, biological or psychosocial.2,4 In recognition of occupational hazards among health care workers, the 2006 world health report of the World Health Organization (WHO) called for the support and the protection of the health work force.5 The report stated that the working condition of health workers contributes to work attrition in many countries due to work-related illness and injury.5 Noteworthy, the influence of work on health dates back to the late 18th Century, when Bernadino Ramazzinni identified the role of occupation in the dynamics of health and disease.6
Of the various types of hazards, psychosocial hazards impacts the most on the mental wellbeing of health care workers.5,6 Psychosocial hazards refer to those aspects of work design, work organization and management, including their social context, which have potential of inflicting psychological or physical harm.7 Work-related psychosocial hazards include interpersonal relationships at work, work overload, work stress, low job control, bullying, violence and poor organizational justice.2 Prolonged exposure to these psychosocial hazards is related to increased health problems, such as cardiovascular diseases8, and could also contribute to psychiatric disorders, including depression.9,10
Psychosocial hazards are thus associated with the experience of work-related stress. Work-related stress is common and the economic burden of this problem is quite huge. It has a high cost in terms of workers’ health, absenteeism and reduced job performance.11 Leka et al. 12 noted that 6.5 million working days are lost each year in the United Kingdom due to workrelated stress. Also, nearly 28% of European workers reported that their mental well-being were hampered following exposure to psychosocial hazards.13 Noteworthy, 50-60% of all lost working days can be attributed to work-related stress and psychosocial risks.13
In spite of the increasing research on psychosocial aspects of work in high-income countries, a dearth of this problem exists in Africa and specifically, Nigeria.14 Hence, there is need to explore the psychosocial hazards among health care workers in low-income countries. Furthermore, this could serve as a basis for instituting occupational health and safety policy and programs tailored to health care workers. This study aimed to identify the psychosocial hazards and ascertain the risks among health care workers in a tertiary health facility in the south-south region of Nigeria.