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Acknowledgments are due to Bosch and Delphi Corporations.
Occupational Safety and HygieneInternational Symposium on
Assessing the participatory dimension of a hands-on training intervention on Industrial and Environmental Safety in a Chemicals Plant in Portugal Duarte, Sérgioa; Vasconcelos, Ricardoa a Centro de Psicologia da Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Psicologia e de Ciências da Educação - Universidade do Porto, Rua do Dr. Manuel Pereira da Silva, 4200-392, Porto, Portugal, email: email@example.com
1. INTRODUCTION Participation is a fuzzy concept among social sciences which lacks epistemological and ontological consensus on its definition, measurement and application (Bar-Haim, 2002). It is a polysemic concept and it can be used to categorize several kinds of interventions (Garrigou, Daniellou, Caballeda & Ruaud,1995). Participatory Ergonomics is the field in which most of the interventions that intend to employ participation in Occupational Health and Safety are included. Wilson and Haines (1997, pp. 492-493) define it as "the involvement of people in planning and controlling a significant amount of their own work activities, with sufficient knowledge and power to influence both processes and outcomes in order to achieve desirable goals". This is a broad definition as is the scope of interventions that fit Participatory Ergonomics, as can be seen in the framework developed by Haines, Wilson, Vink and Koningsveld (2002).
In what regards its results of Participatory Ergonomics interventions (eg Cole et al., 2005, Cole et al., 2009, and St.
Vincent et al., 2010), systematic reviews point out a generally positive impact. It is unanimous for the most representative authors in this area the existence of advantages of the workers' participation such as the development of better solutions due to the experience gathered during work (Imada, 1991; St-Vincent, Fernandez, Kuorinka, Chicoine, & Beaugrand, 1997); the greater acceptance of the best solutions by the workers (Wilson, 1991); the possibility of the participation process representing a learning experience for everyone involved (St. Vincent et al. 1997, Wilson et al.,
2005) and the possibility of these processes leading to improvements not only in work processes but also in the workers' well-being (Maciel, 1998).
However, there are downsides associated with the ambiguity of the concept of participation, which can lead us to conclude that a participatory project can sometimes be a "risky business" (Garrigou, 2002). In fact, many interventions fail and lead to the disappointment of the workers involved, who feel “fouled”, either because the results are not achieved, or because the working conditions don't really improve (Garrigou, 2002). Participation can also be seen as a way to manipulate workers into thinking that they are really involved and to deviate them from the really important decisions concerning their work (Wells, 1987).
The concept of participation has also been be associated to a "temptation of accountability", whose central concern is holding workers liable for solving all the difficulties which they face (Lacomblez & Vasconcelos, 2009), which means that the outputs of the participatory project do not always serve the people that are feeding the process (Garrigou, 2002).
All this emphasizes the fact that participation is not something that can be analyzed without taking the context in which it occurs into account (Granzow & Theberge, 2009). If it is true that the concept of participation can be used to frame much of what has been done in the field of Work Psycholgy, in particular in what regards the importance conceded to the knowledge developed by workers in the course of their activity, it also seems to define different (even contradictory) interventions, methodologies, goals, rules (Garrigou, 2002).
The intention of this article is, through a case study of a participatory intervention on Industrial and Environmental Safety, to understand how the various stakeholders involved in the process perceive their participation; whether it met their expectations or not; and assess participants’ opinion about the limits and potential of the intervention in what regards the construction of better work conditions.
This participatory intervention took place in a chemical company located in Portugal. The methodology implemented is an adaptation of Matriosca Model (Vasconcelos, 2008; Duarte, & Pinto Vasconcelos, 2010). Its aim is to involve workers in the construction of better working conditions by alternating moments of individual guided analysis of the activity of industrial operators at the workplace, and collective discussion within training groups, where the results of the individual analysis at the workplace are shared and debated. Figure 1 shows, schematically, the logic of participatory hands-on training developed during the intervention. It is based on a cyclic movement in which training and transformation of working conditions influence each other in an intercommunicating process.
This project has contributed to the identification of 200 problems. From these, 84 have already been solved. This alone shows that there has been real transformation of working conditions. The question that arises in this article is the extent to which individuals believe that these results are related to their participation, and how they perceive this participation.
Figure 1 – The logic of Matriosca participatory hands-on training (Vasconcelos, 2010)
2. MATERIALS AND METHODIn order to understand how the subjects perceive the participation that was requested from them in the Project a quantitative survey was undertaken, supported on an ad hoc instrument, built both from exploratory interviews with several stakeholders and literature review.
The interviews were conducted with participants in the intervention, with different levels of responsibility in the company and varying degrees of participation in the intervention process. The semi-structured interviews sought to assess the views of stakeholders about the Matriosca Model, which strengths and weaknesses they found and what their perception of the role of participation for the results was. The interviews were transcribed and their content was analysed.
The literature review focused mainly in the fields of Participatory Ergonomics and Activity Centered Ergonomics.
From there, a questionnaire composed of 32 items was built. These items were established according to the dimensions 'attitude towards participation', 'Perceived impact of the intervention' and 'Perception of involvement' and were evaluated by the subjects through a Likert scale with values ranging from 1 to 5 (1= 'I completely disagree', 2 = 'I disagree', 3= 'I do not agree, nor disagree', 4= 'I agree' and 4 = 'I completely agree').
The items relating to the dimension 'Attitude towards participation' intended to measure whether the subjects favor a participatory intervention or not, according to some features that are usually attributed to it. The items related to the dimension 'Perceived impact of the intervention' meant to assess the extent to which subjects consider that the intervention had an impact in what concerns working conditions and company's social climate. The items related to the dimension 'Perception of involvement' seeks to evaluate the extent to which the subjects feel that the workers were involved in the process.
This scale was applied at the end of the final sessions of the training project to 77 participants and it was expected an overall favourable attitude of the subjects towards participation.
3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONThe subjects' responses to the questionnaire were analyzed using an exploratory factor analysis.
This analysis led to the exclusion of 19 items and to the extraction of three factors that were named "Perceived impact" (5 items), "Conflicts associated with participation" (4 items) and "Perception of involvement" (4 items).
Then, we calculated the means of the subjects' response to the items belonging to each factor. Using Student's t-test the means of each factor were then compared with the midpoint of the scale (3), which represents a neutral attitude. It was verified that the means of the subjects' responses to the items belonging to the factors 'Perceived impact' and 'Perception of involvement' were significantly above the midpoint of the scale and the mand of the subjects' responses to the items belonging to the factor 'Conflicts associated with participation' was significantly below the midpoint of the scale.
The use of a questionnaire can be a useful method to assess economically the perception of participation of a large number of participants. The extraction of the factors in this first application of this questionnaire reveals that it can be useful to measure both the positive aspects of participation ('Perceived impact' and 'Perceptions of involvment') and the negative aspects ('Conflicts associated with participation'). Also, the distribution of the subjects' responses to the items of each of the factors reveals a generally positive attitude towards this particular intervention, which is useful for its monitoring and also an important element for its final assessment.
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