Research

Farming incidents caused by stress and fatigue

A Scottish study has identified stress and fatigue as key causes of agricultural incidents. The University of Aberdeen research team found that “lapses in situation awareness” related to stress and fatigue were a main contributory factor.

The Non-Technical Skills in Agriculture group (NTSAg) said the project was the first to look at the the issue. Researcher Ilinca-Ruxandra Tone interviewed farmers from the UK and Ireland. Her research found many lapses had occurred “at a perception level”, such as a failure to notice something. Other lapses included misjudging the size of a vehicle, with some of these incidents being attributed to a recent change in equipment or machinery or over-familiarity with existing equipment.

“We found consistently that farmers' stress and fatigue can negatively affect their mental picture of what is going on which leads to accidents and incidents,” she said. “This is hugely significant given that stress and fatigue are prevalent issues in agriculture, alongside more serious mental health issues, and our findings extend our knowledge to establish a link between stress and fatigue and situation awareness.” 
Read more: 
Farmers WeeklyBBC News OnlineThe ScotsmanUniversity of Aberdeen farm safety project and NTSAg website. Source: Risks 1006

Noisy open-plan offices increase stress symptoms by 34 per cent

Australian researchers have said the current pandemic is providing employers with an opportunity to address the significant stress risks posed by open-plan office noises.

Bond University assistant professor of organisational behaviour Dr Libby Sander is the lead author of a recent study where participants exposed to typical open-plan office noise showed a 34 per cent increase in sweat response – an indicator of physiological stress – compared to those in a quiet, private office environment.

The exposure to other noises like photocopying, phones, people talking and typing also led to a 25 per cent increase in negative mood, the study found.

Employers need to be conscious of what the noise levels are in their workplaces, even if they don't seem excessive and the impacts on workers appear to be subtle, Sander says. The study's experiment only involved an eight-minute exposure period but produced significant effects, which can only be exacerbated over time.

Office noise is the most complained about aspect of open-plan offices and has been shown to have cumulative adverse effects on worker wellbeing, performance, job satisfaction and turnover intention. 

COVID-19-induced workplace changes present an opportunity for employers and HR practitioners to assess workspace design to minimise the effects of noise. Most workers undertaking flexible work are finding they are more able to control noise and distraction while working at home.

With an expected increase in remote working arrangements post-pandemic, many offices are likely to become smaller. Sander said, this will increase the risk of noise becoming more concentrated, and needs to be addressed.  
Read more: Elizabeth (Libby) Sander, et al, Open-plan office noise is stressful: multimodal stress detection in a simulated work environment. [Abstract] Journal of Management and Organisation, published online June 2021, doi: 10.1017/jmo.2021.17. Source: OHSAlert

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