WORKERS HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY IN A CHALLENGING WORK ENVIRONMENT – A CASE STUDY OF SELECTED TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN AKWA IBOM STATE
- Background to the Study
The environment in which a worker stays to perform duties assigned to him or her can either boost or mar his performance in terms of work productivity. Work environment, for the purpose of this study, is categorized into two viz; the physical and non-physical environment. The physical work environment includes office building, fixtures and fittings, refuse and sewage disposal facilities, water supply, lighting, canteen, drainage systems, grassland and vegetation, amongst others. The non-physical environment is made up of air, noise and weather. The quality of this environment affects the health of the worker and invariably productivity. They are referred to as the non-physical environment mainly because they constitute part of the natural environment which cannot be seen visibly with the human eyes, yet, they impact heavily on human life (Etuk, 2006). Air for instance is very essential to life, but continuous exposure to polluted air endangers life. Air pollution produced when fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are burnt by chlorofluorocarbons, noise produced by vehicles, heavy machinery, aircrafts and humans. Burning of fossil fuels occurs in electrical power plants, factories, mining and metal extraction industries, incinerators, motor vehicles etc. They are dangerous to health when released in the form of gases, smoke, soot, dust and grit.
Another component of the non-physical environment is noise. Any sound that is unpleasant and irritating is called noise. Noise pollution is common is busy towns, cities, markets and even including tertiary institutions. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels (db) Osayingbemi (1991). Noise that goes on continuously for a long time can make humans tired and irritable, cause headache and prevent people from sleeping properly. Over long periods, this kind of strain can cause illness especially mental illness. Noise is also linked to high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Constant exposure to noise above 85 decibels can cause permanent loss of hearing. Sudden explosive noise over 150 decibels may cause deafness. In quarries, airports and factories where noise levels cannot be completely reduced, the workers are advised to wear ear-muffs as a precaution to prevent loss of hearing or deafness.
The third aspect of the non-physical environment, weather refers to the coldness, dryness or hotness of the living environment in relation to their effect on human life. Excessively cold weather condition can cause pneumonia while exposure to excessively hot weather can lead to meningitis and sudden death. Thus the non-physical environment is as equally important as the physical one. The physical and the non-physical work environment has effects on worker’s wellbeing and productivity, Ekpu (2006).
Every organization expects maximum positive productivity from her workforce. This is partly because low or poor manpower productivity has serious negative consequences on the attainment of predetermined corporate goals and objectives. For an educational institution like the University, high manpower productivity could manifest positive results such as effective security of lives and property in the institution, qualitative academic profile, unity of purpose among staff, improved employee skills, and so on, Achalu (1995).
Productivity according to Barber and Donovan (1977) also has behavioural consequences. For instance, morale tends to be high when people perceive themselves to be productive but not subject to exorbitant work demands within a poor work environment, conversely, morale tends to dampen when an organization achieves low productivity. Therefore, it is necessary for an organization to create an environment conducive to workers’ health and productivity.
Thus, this study is an inquiry into workers’ health and productivity in a challenging work environment using security staff in selected tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Key issues to be discussed include conditions necessary for good workers’ health and productivity, factors that hinder good workers’ health and productivity, the challenges in the work environment of security personnel in tertiary institutions, and ways to tackle inherent challenges in the security work environment towards promoting good health and productivity.
Statement of the Problem
The importance of security services in the survival of any organization cannot be over emphasized. Apart from protecting human lives in the establishment, security operatives expend a greater part of their time and energy in safeguarding the financial and non-financial assets of an organization without which the continuous existence of the system would be jeopardized.
Yet, a survey of some tertiary institutions across Akwa Ibom State reveals that this essential service providers are operating under a very unfriendly work environment that are inimical to their personal health and work performance. Some of these academic environments harbour stagnant water, dirty gutters, offensive refuse heaps and poor sewage disposal systems, which breed disease – causing micro-organisms that render security work cumbersome and unattractive. This, according to a source which pleaded anonymity in one of the tertiary institutions visited, accounts for low productivity, high labour turnover among security staff, frequent ill-health and high number of deaths of security workers per annum in the state, Field Survey (2010).
This study is therefore informed by the poor state of work environment in some tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State and their effects on workers’ health and productivity.
Purpose of the Study
This study aimed at identifying key environmental factors that constitute health hazards to workers in selected tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State with a view to guiding management to promote workers’ health in order to enhance their welfare and productivity. The study was also directed to inform concerned authorities on the negative effects of poor environmental management on workers’ health and productivity.
Objectives of the Study
The main objectives of this study were as follows:
- To identify the factors that pose challenges to workers’ health and productivity in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State.
- To examine the effects of environmental hazards on security workers’ health and productivity in Akwa Ibom State.
- To discuss the ways in which the health of the workers and the work environment could be promoted for general good.
The following research questions were formulated to guide this study:
- What are the factors that pose challenges to security workers’ health and productivity in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State?
- What are the effects of environmental hazards on security workers’ health and productivity in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State?
- In what way(s) can the health of security worker and their environment be promoted for improved work performance?
- There is no significant relationship between security work environment and worker’s health/productivity in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State.
- There is no significant relationship between security workers’ health and productivity in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State.
Significance of the Study
This study was deemed significant in many respects including the following:
- The study will guide policy makers in tertiary institutions to formulate and implement appropriate policies that would promote a healthy and safe work environment in their respective institutions of learning.
- The study will enlighten personnel managers in tertiary institutions to know that a healthy work environment can boost worker’s morale. This understanding will help them in solving motivation problems faced by staff.
- Environmental and Management experts/analysts will derive immense support from this work in their quest for secondary material to prepare conference papers, workshop address, seminar text, etc especially in the area of workers health and productivity.
- This study will educate occupational health workers in various organizations to take precautionary measures against being victims of numerous hazards in the workplace.
- It is hoped that by this study, functional heads and departmental managers would learn the appropriate ways of arranging and handling equipment, chemicals, electronic gadgets and other injurious materials in the work environment while planning office layout to achieve aesthetic value, emphasis would also be placed on workers’ safety and convenience in relation to man-machine relationship, waste disposal and environmental sanitation.
- Security workers in tertiary institutions across Akwa Ibom State will be educated by this study to know how to protect themselves against being victims of avoidable environmental hazards in their environment.
1.8 Delimitations of the Study
This study is delimited mainly to the occupational hazards faced by security service providers in tertiary institutions in Akwa Ibom State. Basically, the study will focus attention on the inherent hazards in the security work environment as it affects the workers’ health and invariably their productivity, such as physical hazards, chemical hazards biological hazards, mechanical hazards and psycho-social hazards. In terms of gender composition, the study considers the responses of both the male and female security workers since they operate on a duty-shift basis. Furthermore, this is delimited to the use of questionnaire as the principal instrument for collecting primary data, as well as the use of descriptive statistics and the chi-square technique in data analysis. The result so derived may for some obvious reasons differ from that obtained from more complex statistical tool of data analysis.