Qualitative research refers to research design that are used to collect data that is qualitative in nature. Qualitative research has become one of the best ways of carrying out research in many fields of occupation including occupational health and safety. Occupational health and safety is one of the fields within the healthcare which deals with the promotion and the maintenance of very high standards of mental, physical as well as social well-being of the workers in each and every occupation that they are involved in mainly by ensuring that risks and departures are controlled and reduced while making sure that the people adopt very well to their jobs (Hughes & Ferrett, 2015). In this field, qualitative research has a lot of importance because of the fact that it enables the collection of data about various issues within the field and thus helping in decision making by key stakeholders in the occupational health and safety field. The main qualitative research methods and tools that are used in occupational health and safety include questionnaires, interviews, direct observation and use of focus groups.
Qualitative data in the field of occupational health and safety can be effectively collected through the questionnaires. Questionnaires are important tools for collecting information about various aspects of the occupational health and safety both anonymously and with the revelation of the correspondents. Questionnaires are simply collections of objective questions that are outline either on a paper or in electronic format that can be used to gather information of varied nature. Qualitative information such as the age and the health conditions of the correspondent can be effectively gathered by the questionnaires. Questionnaires can be used to collect information about the satisfaction of the workers with the health policies of the organizations that they work for or even about the satisfaction of the health workers about their jobs (Ulin, Robinson & Tolley, 2012). Furthermore, questionnaires in the field of occupational health and safety can be used to collect information about the opinions of the workers in various occupations about certain health policies. This information can be collected and can aid in the decision making process about the workers health policies in an organization. The questionnaires are very effective in the research in occupational health and safety because they are capable of collecting information anonymously and therefore the workers find it easy to fill questionnaires because they give them an opportunity to express their feelings and opinions without fear and hence help in bringing out the reality as well as the truth with regard to health issues in their occupations.
The use of interviews in occupational health and safety research is another method. Interviews are direct question answer engagements which involve the researcher and the correspondent where the main aim is to collect data about a specific phenomenon. In this case, Interviews can be held between researchers and the workers or occupational health personnel to help and collect information regarding issues of the worker health policies and programs in their occupations and their take on the effectiveness of such health programs (Bowling, 2014). Interviews can be held individually where one respondent at a time can be questioned or in groups where the research questions groups of people. Interviews are effective in the sense that the researcher is able to gauge the validity of any claims made by the respondent by comparing the responses with the reality as it is best known to him or her. Interviews should therefore be used as a qualitative method in gathering information in occupational health and safety because it helps to enhance the objectivity of the responses to a specific area being researched on in the field.
Direct observation is one of the main methods of qualitative research that has dominated almost all the fields of study. This is because of the easy with which it can be used to collect data about many aspects of a phenomena under research and in varied environments. In the field of occupational health and safety, the direct observation can be used to collect data in scenarios such as the behaviour and the reaction of the workers in any organization toward the implementation of a certain health activity or program (Bowling, 2014). The method can also be used to observe the patterns of senior and junior workers in an organization, for example a sewing company, and therefore help to the formulation of measures through which spread of diseases among such workers can be tamed and prevented or even controlled. The rationale of using direct observation is therefore to help in collecting information silently without causing any alarm that can undermine the investigation going on.
Focus groups are very important in the field of occupational health and safety. For example, in an situation where an organization wants to try a certain method of handling health issues among workers, the organization might use a small group of workers to compare their responses to certain health and safety policies and programs so as to be able to make the appropriate modifications that can fit the workers in that particular organization. This way, the management is able to avoid the problems that can result from the failure to try the policies at a small scale before having them apply to all workers. The rationale for use of focus groups is therefore to minimize the risk of having difficulties in implementing health programs and procedures in any organization (Ulin et al, 2012).
In conclusion, the qualitative methods that can effectively be used in the field of occupational health and safety are interviews, direct observations, questionnaires as a tool of collecting data and focus groups which are very essential in offering appropriate guidelines for management of organizations in implementation of various programs and policies relating to the health of their workers. As Hughes & Ferrett (2015) put it, qualitative research is very beneficial to the field of occupational health and safety because the methods of qualitative research provide a basis through which research can be conducted in the field ethically and orderly and furthermore, in an effective manner.
Bowling, A. (2014). Research methods in health: investigating health and health services. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Hughes, P., & Ferrett, E. (2015). Introduction to Health and Safety at Work: For the NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety. Routledge.
Ulin, P. R., Robinson, E. T., & Tolley, E. E. (2012). Qualitative methods in public health: a field guide for applied research. John Wiley & Sons.
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