Evaluation of Research Methods in Occupational Health and Safety

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Experimentation involves the changing of an independent variable of a phenomenon to determine its effect on the dependent variable. The manipulation of the independent variable aids in testing hypothesis regarding phenomena that have a cause-and-effect relationship. On the other hand, observation methods are used to determine behavioral actions of a phenomenon through the adoption of a watch-and-document process (Moraru, Babut & Cioca, 2011). This paper describes experimentation and observation methods of research and determines their effectiveness as applied in occupational health and safety (OHS). In addition, it evaluates the ethical implications of utilizing the research methods in OHS.

Description and Evaluation of Effectiveness

            There are two types of experimental research, which are field and lab experiments. In field experiments, the elements are involved in a controlled situation occurring in the natural environment. The effectiveness of this method is that it gives a true reflection on the phenomena being tested given its exposure to uncontrollable factors that affect the experiment. On the other hand, in lab experiments the elements are engaged in an artificial setting. The effectiveness of this kind of experiment is that it allows the provision of further experimental control through the manipulation of variables. Although the conduction of lab experiments occurs in a less realistic environment, they provide broader conclusions through a combination of controlled experiential factors.

            Observation research involves two methods, which are hidden or visible observations. In hidden observations the observer and the observed factor do not engage in any form of communication. The observed factor is usually unaware that they are part of an observation. On the other hand, in visible observation the observed factor can communicate to the observer and could see the measurement devices being used. Several settings could be utilized under observation research methods. These settings include: naturalistic, participant, and laboratory observations. The effectiveness of the method entails the efficient collection of first hand data that saves time, as compared to the experimental methods (Bavdazˇ, 2009). Thus, observation could be ideal in researches that have time limitations.

Application of Experimentation and Observation Research in OHS

            Experimentation research could be utilized in OHS to enhance safety at the workplace. For instance, it could be utilized for the enforcement of safe behavior through adjusting the environment in which employees work in (Ghosh, 2013). In addition, it could be used for the detection of risks at the workplace, in order to device methods that make the risks visible to the employees. Once the risks become visible, an organization needs to instill mitigation measures to reduce or eliminate the effects of the risks. Thus, this would have aided in the enforcement of safety at the workplace. In an experiment conducted to determine the effectiveness of interventions on work floor safety, the hypothesis tested was whether the intervention positively changes human behavior to enforce safety (Houten, 2012). Different interventions were undertaken including the use of personal protective equipment and persuasive technology. Data was collected before and after the implementation of the intervention to determine their effect on safety. The experiment aided in the determination of the effects of the interventions’ introduction to the work floor through the application of a valid methodology.

            Observation research on the other hand could be used in OHS for the improvement of safety and the reduction of risk. For instance, in a research conducted in Japan, the observation technique was utilized to undertake a risk assessment of occupational accidents at shipyards. The risk assessment involved the identification of hazards at shipyards, risk analysis of the hazards, development of risk control options that enhance occupational safety, creation of consensus-building measures, and the conduction of a review of risk mitigation measures (Shinoda & Tanaka, 2016). Data collection and documentation was done through a mobile device from the time a worker encounters an object until they finish their work at the shipyard. The observation determined that workers become injured in poor safety conditions. On the other hand, they remained unharmed in situations that had safe occupational conditions, sufficient safety management, proper training on personal safety.

Ethical Implications in Utilizing Experimentation and Observation Methods

            One of the ethical implications that arise under these research methods is the concern of privacy. Different participants in an experiment or observation have different privacy needs. In addition, they are legally protected and the ones responsible for the conduction of research have to assure the participants of their privacy. A critical area is online tracking, where research is conducted online using tools that may infringe the privacy rights of the participants (Benbunan-Fich, 2016). With the advancement of technology, it is essential to undertake measures that ensure research occurs in an ethical manner. Another ethical implication relates to informed consent of the participants, especially in experimentation. It is critical to acquire the consent of a participant regarding their willingness to be involved in an experiment from an informed perspective. The failure to do so may result into legal actions that may have dire consequences, especially if the participants are exposed to any form of harm.


Bavdazˇ, M. (2009). Conducting Research on the Response Process in Business Surveys. Statistical Journal Of The IAOS, 1-14.

Benbunan-Fich, R. (2016). The ethics of online research with unsuspecting users: From A/B testing to C/D experimentation. Research Ethics, 13(3-4), 200-218. doi: 10.1177/1747016116680664

Ghosh, T. (2013). Occupational Health and Hazards among Health Care Workers. International Journal Of Occupational Safety And Health, 3(1). doi: 10.3126/ijosh.v3i1.9096

Houten, Y. (2012). Safety @ Work: Research Methodology, 1-47.

Moraru, R., Babut, G., & Cioca, L. (2011). Key Elements of Health and Safety Observation and Feedback Programmes. Mining Engineering, 161-167.

Shinoda, T., & Tanaka, T. (2016). Development of Risk Assessment Methodology for Occupational Safety by Work Observation Technique. Journal Of Ship Production And Design, 32(3), 139-153. doi: 10.5957/jspd.32.3.130036

January 19, 2024

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