Applied Business Research: The need for Safety and Health Standards in Hazardous Working Environments in the Information Technology
Businesses including IT firms are flooded with IT tools like microcomputers, photocopiers, digital surveillance tools, internet, among others. There is mounting evidence from a review of literature that in the IT work environment, especially the IT industry, present hazardous working environments to workers. Workers in these environments also undergo stress from the lack of knowledge of the tools, the lack of, or reduced human contact. Information technology tools also create electrical and fire hazards, which threaten the safety of employees. Employees also suffer from health issues like bleary-eyes from bright screens and monitors of IT tools. The research proves the need for increased safety and health measures in these environments. In the end, the research creates knowledge in the business community of the importance of increased safety and health standards and ergonomic approaches in IT environments given the rapid development of technology and the increased use in workplaces.
Safety and Health Standards Required in IT Environments
Introduction to the Research Problem
A review of indicates that there are many challenges workers face in the workplace apart from health threats, like chemicals, toxins, flammable or combustible materials. Other challenges employees face is underemployment, job security, unemployment, highly competitive work environment, dead-end jobs, harassment, and discrimination among others (Jones, 1996). These challenges according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health make the workplace hazardous for employees. Therefore, the practice of occupational health and safety must consider dealing with physical, chemical, biological, and psychological agents (Reeve, 2005). However, while this is the norm in businesses, few managers consider the health and safety of workers in the current business environment that is rapidly changing under technological advances. Often, there has been a preconception that working in an IT environment like offices fitted with computers, telephones and faxes makes work easier and is safer than a factory.
This research seeks to investigate and prove to the business community that an IT environment also presents hazards like other working environments, thereby calling for health and safety standards especially in IT-driven firms. The rapid development of technology has created microcomputers, video display terminals, and other technological tools present in a business office today (Koreneff & Sims-McLean, 2005). These IT tools have created a technological ecosystem in the business in many unanticipated ways (Fraihat, 2003). Often, technological advances in any business overlook the effect of the technology tools to workers who are important in the automation process (Williams, 2001). The goal of this research to is carry out a qualitative study of literature to find evidence that IT environments also present hazards to the health and productivity of workers. This is to prove a need for increased health and safety standards in IT business environments.
Objectives of the Research
The main objective of this research is to prove that the need for increased health and safety standards in information technology environments, especially in the IT industry.
The specific objectives of the research are:
1. To find evidence from a review of literature that in the IT work environment, especially the IT industry, present hazardous working environments to workers,
2. To use evidence from case studies to show how IT environments can be hazardous to workers, and show a need for increased safety and health measures in these environments
3. To use the results of this research to create knowledge in the business community of the importance of increased safety and health standards in IT environments given the rapid development of technology and the increased use in workplaces.
Review of Literature
Studies have investigated and produced evidence that shows different factors contribute to the creation of hazardous work environments in any organization from any industry. The study by Mearns et al. (2004) identifies that apart from physical and biological factors, social and organizational factors have an impact on the health and safety of employees. To prove this, the researchers carried out a questionnaire survey study on Norwegian and UK offshore employees. They gathered responses on scales that measured factors like satisfaction with safety measures, risk perception, attitudes to safety, perception of the job situation, perception of social support, and commitment to safety (Mearns et al., 2004). The results of this study also prove that in such environments employees encounter the challenges of using advanced technological offshore equipment. However, the equipment eases work especially in adverse weather conditions; the study finds that accidents occur if the workers make an error when they are not aware of how to use this technology. Mearns et al. (2004) also indicates that these employees also find that the most noteworthy factors that determine the health and safety of the workplace are management's commitment to safety, and attitudes to safety. This research finds the results of this study useful in creating awareness for increased health and safety standards in IT environments. This is because there is evidence that the offshore work environment uses technology substantially in exploration and drilling. It also indicates that the workers feel management must be committed to safety. This implies the need for management to enforce safety and health standards and the requirement of training and education on new technology to reduce the risk of accidents from human error.
According to the Information Resources Management Association (1994) an IT environment presents a health and safety hazard to workers, since a poor design of the workplace can cause soreness and bleary-eyed employees (p.29). This is from the staring continuously at bright screens and typing from improper keyboards. This pioneer research in the IT environment presents several office automation threats to the productivity and health of workers, and the ergonomic approach that management can adopt. Some of the hazards of working in an IT environment include repetitive stress injuries, vision impairment, and radiation related illnesses even in office workers not operating heavily machinery like forklifts (Fraihat, 2003). Moreover, when management forcefully introduces IT tools in an automation exercise, they disrupt the work environment. This is more so if a mismatch occurs between the technology and the job, creating a job demand on the human body and mind.
According to Koreneff and Sims-McLean (2005), technology also presents hazards like electrical hazards, which require the regular monitoring and control of the appliances. Often, t is easy to overlook the electrical hazard when working with IT tools like computers, printers, and copying machines, among others since their hazard rating is not as high as that of kitchen or industrial appliances. Office IT tools create electrical hazard if there are worn electrical plugs and cords or exposed wires, or if there is a fluid near the power source or the exposed electrical cord (Koreneff & Sims-McLean, 2005). Electrical hazards of office IT tools increase if there are making irregular sound indicating faults, there are overheard or ground electrical wires installed poorly, ignorance of warning tags and incorrect use of the appliance. Businesses need to realize the basic IT tools like computers and printers run the risk of causing serious injury and death in workers if exposed to shock, electrical burns, and electrocution (Fraihat, 2003). Moreover, electrical faults from the IT tools can also increase the risk of fire hazards. Koreneff identified these hazards and Sims-McLean (2005) from a review of various IT related accidents by WorkCover NSW. For this research is offers proof to the business community that working with IT tools like keyboards, printers, speakers, monitors, scanners, modems, and photocopiers can be potential hazardous for workers.
This potential hazard drives the need for creating this informative research finding for a business willing to improve its health and safety standards. This need arises from the realization that most people do not consider the amount of time they spend in the working environment, and the potential hazards arising from working with technology (Williams, 2001). The need for safety and health measures arises from this ignorance, which increase the risk of accidents occurring from human error while working with technology. This research finds that this situation creates the need for increased safety and health in the IT environments.
Another unprecedented hazard arising from IT environments are security from the increased use of surveillance technology. Other information technology tools increasing the risk of loss of security and personal information is the internet and electronic mail (TemaNord, 1998). These forms of IT have made it easy to communicate and collectively send mail to a large group instantly, the pose potential hazards. Hazards current businesses with IT environments or IT companies face is the threat to security from hackers invading surveillance systems, since current surveillance systems are wired to the internet or the local area network (LaMontagne et al., 2002). The other hazard is the loss of personal information and key business information like banking details, increasing the risk of financial fraud. Moreover, particular business information like consumer information, patents to products and services, can be lost from easy access of the business database from the…