Pulido-Navarro M, Noriega-Elío M. Condiciones objetivas y subjetivas del trabajo y trastornos psicofísicos. [Objective and subjective conditions of work and psycho-physical disturbances.] Cadernos de Saúde Pública [Public Health Notebooks] (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) 2003 January-February; 19(1): 269-277.

Objectives:To analyze the relationship between work conditions and psycho-physical disturbances, in an assessment of the content of work in a chemical-pharmaceutical industry in Mexico.

Methodology:Qualitative-quantitative using three techniques: an instrument for observing the work process, an instrument to assess safety and health conditions in the company, and an epidemiological survey (n=377).

Results:The context for the study was that of multinational pharmaceutical companies whose business initiatives were: innovation, speed of operations, and growth, with the overriding aim of maximizing economic performance. These policies invoked a series of changes that ultimately affected the final link in the chain of decisions: the worker. The trend toward mechanization and automation increased the psychic demands on workers, by subjecting them to changes that simplified tasks, making these tasks repetitive and monotonous, and by burdening them with uninteresting activities.

Although the study found some acceptable aspects of safety and hygiene, the root problem was that for the majority of activities the worker could not exercise control over what he did. Nor did the worker have the possibility of expanding one’s knowledge or developing one’s own creativity or capacity for initiative. The workers in the plant under study had no possibility of participating in planning and organizing work routines. Therefore, they were deprived of their capacity for reasoning.

A fundamental problem derived from the rotation of work shifts, which affected health because as it altered the circadian cycle and the rhythm of daily life. The company used the rotation of work shifts to favor or to punish workers, which produced divisions and rivalries among them while increasing the power of the supervisors.

The study found strong associations between clusters of demands and health problems. The demands fell basically into three categories: 1) those related to the type of work routines, whose principal characteristics were meticulousness, immobility, and repetitiveness; 2) those associated with the time span of work (a prolonged shift and work on days off and on vacation days); 3) those related to very strict supervision and control. These demands played a critical role in the appearance of two types of pathologies: 1) the psychic, psychosomatic, and fatigue-related (rate of 69 per 100 workers) and 2) the muscular-skeletal (rate of 48 per 100). Regarding occupational risks, another important factor was noise.

Conclusions:Both objective and subjective conditions play important roles in causing sickness among workers.

Copyright 2007 University of New Mexico