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OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR FREELANCE WORKERS. THE SELF-EVALUATION APPROACH

 

 

 

 

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR FREELANCE WORKERS.

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

Freelancing has grown to be a wider employment sector, and it is likely to continue absorbing millions of professionals. However, despite the financial benefits associated with the industry, many health and safety risks are perceived in freelance work. Most of the freelancers tend to focus on the benefits they attain from freelancing but fail to take into perspective the health and safety risks associated with the occupation. This study will explore the understanding of freelancers on health and safety, and how they protect themselves, along with identifying health and safety risks associated with freelancing. The study will adopt both qualitative and quantitative techniques in data collection and analysis. Random sampling will be used to generate a sample of 50 respondents from Birmingham, which is the hub of freelancing. The study is expected to be of significance to health policymakers, the freelancers themselves, as well as environmental agencies.

Key Words: Freelancing, Freelancers, Health Policy Makers, Environmental Agencies.

 

 

Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for Freelance Workers. The Self-Evaluation Approach

Introduction

Background of the Study

Freelancing is increasingly growing to be a source of living for millions of people across the world. Data from freelancer.com, which is the largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace globally including a large number of users and projects, depict that over 41,954,236 employers and freelancers worldwide from over 247 countries, territories, and regions are connected through the platform (Baitenizov et al., 2017). In the US alone, the data collected in 2019 showed that 35% of the workers are freelancers – the number had significantly increased to 57 million from 4 million since 2014 (Ferguson, 2018). In fact, there are speculations that the number of freelancers will triple by 2030 due to the increasingly stiff competition in the employment market. Besides, most people perceive freelancing as a long-term career opportunity, and that skilled freelancers earn large amounts per hour compared to 70% of the employed workers (Ferguson, 2018).

However, while these facts hold true, it is important for the freelancers and the aspiring freelancers to be aware that there are significant health risks associated with the freelance job. It has been found that self-employment, particularly freelancing, contributes many more health complications than being an employee for someone else. The health risks of the freelancers are heightened by the fact that close to 70 percent of people in the industry are completely ignorant about their health and safety (Ruggieri et al., 2016). Therefore, the study will focus on examining freelance workers’ understanding of health and safety on how they protect themselves, as well as to explore the sources from which the focus group obtain their health and safety information.

Literature Review

Multiple studies have depicted that freelancing exposes people to diverse health and safety risk. Shevchuk, Strebkov, and Davis (2019) argued that while most people may envision self-employment, particularly freelancing, as a liberating experience, the reality is that it is not quite simple as it involves a lot of health complications. The scholars, Shevchuk, Strebkov, and Davis (2019) alluded that despite the alleged benefits of freelance work, including setting own time of work and working from the comfort one’s premises, a range of health and safety risks are present within the wider field. Van der Zwan, Hessels, and Burger (2019) supported the above claim by asserting that freelance work presents a measurable burden on an individual’s overall health, including stress and anxiety. Furthermore, van der Zwan, Hessels, and Burger (2019) added that the primary stressors for the freelancers include isolation resulting from the absence of co-worker engagement, increase financial pressure from irregular cash flow, inability to take holidays due to fear of missing an important or well-paying task, and inconsistent hours of working. Popiel (2017) affirmed that the above risks are common among the greatest percentage of freelancers and added that a combination of the risks could completely erode a freelancer’s health and wellness, resulting to mental health disorders, including depression, extreme stress, and anxiety.

According to Popiel (2017), almost 75 percent of the freelancers have limited knowledge of health and safety, and as a consequence, they rarely embark on activities that keep them protected from health risks related to their line of work. In a study conducted by Ropponen et al. (2019) that involved 20 freelancers, which sort to investigate the measure they use to enhance the health and safety, only five of the participants showed some level of being concerned with their health and safety. Apart from the four who were observed to be quite concerned with daily physical exercise and established routine, which incorporated regular sleeping, eating, and working schedules to maintain a healthy body and maximum productivity, the other 15 participants were less concerned with their wellness. Instead, they worked without taking breaks, never took holidays for the three months they were under observation, and they never bothered to switch off from their normal work. Most of them spent up to 20 hours on their computers.

In another study, Kitching and Iskandarova (2019) observed that out of 25 freelance workers he studied, all of them slept for less than 7 hours and were consistently working under pressure to bit the deadlines of their client and to pick more jobs. These people recorded a high level of anxiety and depression in their daily operations. However, Kitching and Iskandarova (2019) noted that 6 of the total participants engaged took constant breaks to go for a run or take a walk, engage in some meditation or quick stretch, listen to music, or take a warm bath. The scholar became more interested in the 6 participants and questioned them on their source of health and safety information. According to Kitching and Iskandarova (2019), the freelancers received information on how to maintain good health from publications on a healthy lifestyle and published studies on health issues. In relation to this, Shevchuk, Strebkov, and Davis (2019) highlighted that a majority of the freelancers fail to prioritise health and safety. They look for work and engage maximally in assessing opportunities they get from the freelancing industry but fail to discuss health and safety risks linked to the occupation. Shevchuk, Strebkov, and Davis (2019) argued that the freelancing would be a healthy and safety industry if the professionals in the industry could take into perspective the various health and safety risks that may result from the occupation and the precautions to minimising them.

Research gap

There is a huge research gap regarding the health and safety guidelines of freelancers considering it is a relatively new form of occupation. The literature review will seek to underline personal responsibility of a freelancer while they are undertaking his or her work. It will also determine if most freelancers follow the correct safety procedures while working at their respective locations. The literature review also seeks to address some of the major risks the freelancers face while they work. A gap exists where many freelancers are known for taking shortcuts while risking their lives and health. The literature review tries to identify some of the shortcuts and to offer the best way to avoid those in the future. It also aims at addressing the various forms of training that could be offered to freelancers to enhance their health and safety evaluation.

Significance of the Study

The data that will be collected from the study will be of benefit to different groups of people. The findings will be presented to the healthy bodies to educate freelancers about the health and safety risks associated with their work. Similarly, the findings will inform freelance workers on viable health and safety measures to take to enhance their health while engaging in their daily freelance obligations. Overly, data from the study will benefit the general public, particularly the people looking forward to joining the freelance industry, by making them aware of the potential health risks associated with the occupation.

 

Aims and Objectives

The aim of the study will be to create an understanding of the health and safety risks that freelancers are subjected to in the course of their work. The following minor objectives will be taken into perspective in order to achieve the purpose of the study.

  • To examine the knowledge and understanding of freelancers on health and safety measures.
  • To establish the source of health and safety information from which the freelance workers retrieve health information.
  • To determine the health and safety measures put forth by freelance workers to enhance their health status.

Research Hypothesis

  • H0 – If freelance workers do not have adequate knowledge and understanding of health and safety measures, then there is a high possibility of health complications reporting among freelancers
  • H1 – There is a direct correction between the level of knowledge on health and safety measures and the number of health cases reported by freelancers
  • H0 – If freelancers have an elaborate understanding of health and safety measures, then they will present with limited risks to health complications.
  • H1 –   There is a direct positive correlation between the understanding of health and safety measures among the freelancers and the rate of health complications risks.
  • H0 –   If freelance workers have access to good and reliable sources of health and safety information, and put them into perspective, then they will record reduced risks to health and safety complications.
  • H1 – There is a direct correction between accessibility and utilization of health and safety measures and the rate of health risks reported by freelancers
  • H0 – If freelance workers do not have access to good and reliable sources of health and safety information, and do not put reliable health and safety information into perspective, then they will record increased risks to health and safety complications
  • H1 – There is a direct positive correlation between the lack of safety and health measures resources accessibility and high rate of health and risks case reporting
  • H0 – Lack of safety and health measures training among the freelancers will not lead to a safe working environment
  • H1 – There is a direct correlation between the level of safety and health measures training and the rate of safety risks reporting

Methodology

Introduction

The methodology section will provide an explicit analysis of the study design sampling technique and process, including the proposed appropriate number and characteristics of participants, limitations of the study, as well as the study procedure. Procedures and data collection techniques, as well as how the privacy and anonymity of the subjects will be assured, will also be discussed in this section. Sections covering on how data will be analysed and interpreted, along with the statistical tests that will be used for the study will also be capture in this section. Finally, the section will provide a detailed analysis of how the validity and reliability of the data collected will be tested, as well as the ethical standards that will be adhered to.

Data Collection Technique

Both qualitative and quantitative study designs will be used in accomplishing the study. The qualitative approach will be used in exploring the understanding of the respondents about health and safety risks while the quantitative technique will be used to study the differences in the health conditions of the freelancers with the knowledge of health and safety and those without the understanding to determine the level of risks the former are exposed to.

Research Design

Two different research designs will be used for the purpose of the study. In order to collect quantitative data, an experimental study design will be adopted. The chosen design is centrally focused on constructing research that is “high in causal (internal) validity.” It is best for this study as it provides room for the application of randomisation, which is deemed to be effective in providing the highest casual validity levels. In this case, the experiment will involve two categories of freelance workers, those who understand health and safety and protect themselves, and those who do not. This will help in comparing the level of health and safety risks the two groups are subjected to. Conversely, a narrative design will be adopted in qualitative data. The informal semi-structured interview method will be used for the purpose of primary qualitative data collection. A semi-structured interview is a data collection approach that does not restrict an interviewer to a formalised set of questions. The choice of the semi-structured interview is based on its effectiveness in identifying the insights of a prevailing issue from the viewpoint of end-users or participants (Kallio et al., 2016). Besides, the selection of the semi-structured interview is based on its efficacy in gathering “focused, qualitative textual data.” The method was also deemed much appropriate as it presented.

Data Analysis

The data collected from the informal semi-structured interviews will be analysed qualitatively through the “narrative analysis” approach. Narrative analysis is a qualitative analysis approach that involves the reformulation of information presented by the interviewees taking into consideration the context of all the responses distinctively and the different experiences and understanding of all the respondents. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) tool will be used for the analysis of quantitative data. ANOVA is a statistical method that is commonly used to check whether the means of two or more groups are different from each other (Blanca et al., 2018). It analyses the impact of one or more elements by comparing the means of different samples. Therefore, it will be appropriate in comparing the mean of the data obtained from the two groups, the “intervention” and the “control” group to come up with a vivid conclusion

Sampling Technique and Study Sample

A random sampling technique will be used to come up with a sample of 50 freelancers to take part in the study. The respondents will be generated from different regions within Birmingham, UK, since it is the second largest city that is dominated by freelancers. Random sampling technique has been selected in order to ensure that the data that will be collected will be unbiased, representing the total population of freelancers.

Reliability and Validity Measures

Face validity and content validity will be used to test the validity and reliability of the results. Face validity checks will be carried out to ensure that the open-ended questionnaires that will be used will aid in achieving the actual objectives of the study. The face validity assessments will be carried out with the help of experts, who will run tests in the research instrument (questionnaires) to ensure that they are relevant and unambiguous. Similarly, a content validity test will be carried out to check that there are sufficient relevant questions covering all aspects being studied and that there are no irrelevant contents included in the research. Reliability tests in the case of this study will be essential in ascertaining the accuracy of the data collected. The reliability of the data that will be collected from the informal semi-structured interview will be measured based on the stability and consistency of the information.

Ethical Standards

Multiple ethical standards will be put into consideration in accomplishing the study. Respondent’s consent will be acquired prior to the study to make them prepared for the actual study. All the participants will be assured of their privacy in the sense that their private information will not be leaked to the public without their consent. Data will be kept securely and information will be anonymised. Finally, in the formulation of interview questions, the use of discriminatory, offensive, and unacceptable language will strictly be prohibited.

 

Timetable

WBS     1st – 8th

      May

   11th –15th

      May

   18th –22th

      May

  25th – 29 th

      May

1st – 5th

      Jun

1 Formulation of Research team and choosing the research questions and objectives  

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

2  

 

X

Reviewing available literature on the study area and clarifying the problem  

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

3  

 

X

 

 

X

Defining terms and concepts as they would apply to the study to minimise confusion  

 

X

 

 

X

4  

 

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

Data collection (interviewing, observation, and experiments)  

 

X

5  

X

 

X

 

X

 

X

Data analysis and presentation

 

Expected Benefits

The data will be useful for different groups. The data is expected to show the level of freelancers’ knowledge of health and safety matters, and the safety measures they take into consideration. Besides, where they source their health and safety information is of relevance in determining the validity, reliability, and effectiveness of the health information they possess. For freelancers, the completion of the study will be of great value as it will provide them with information about the health risk factor associated with their work and the functional interventions to protect them from the risks. Conversely, health policymakers are expected to make use of the study findings in developing, planning, and enacting programs that would be effective in improving the quality of health and safety of the freelancers. This is based on the ideology that policies and laws are instrumental in keeping people healthy and safe by encouraging them to adhere to specific health-based practices. Similarly, the finding will be expected to benefit HSE agencies by helping them in the process of setting as well as overseeing the implementation of health-protecting norms and regulations. Also, environmental agencies are expected to use the information in inventing facilities that can be useful for freelancers in enhancing their health and safety standards.

Practicalities

The successful completion of the research will demand a total cost of £5000 to be spent. The amount will cater to research equipment, including the printing of questionnaires, as well as the traveling costs to the field of research, among other miscellaneous expenses. There will be a need of collaboration with the registry of employees, who will help in providing us with information about the various people doing the freelance work in the selected study setting. The help of the staff from the learning institution will be required to help in planning for the research and to assist in ensuring that everything is in order.

 

References

Baitenizov, D.T., Dubina, I.N., Campbell, D.F., Carayannis, E.G. and Azatbek, T.A., 2019. Freelance as a creative mode of self-employment in a new economy (a literature review). Journal of the Knowledge Economy10(1), pp.1-17.

Blanca, M.J., Alarcón, R., Arnau, J., Bono, R. and Bendayan, R., 2018. Effect of variance ratio on ANOVA robustness: might 1.5 be the limit? Behaviour Research Methods50(3), pp.937-962.

Ferguson, J.L., 2018. Creating a freelance career. Abington: Routledge.

Kallio, H., Pietilä, A.M., Johnson, M. and Kangasniemi, M., 2016. Systematic methodological review: developing a framework for a qualitative semi‐structured interview guide. Journal of Advanced Nursing72(12), pp.2954-2965.

Kitching, J. and Iskandarova, M., 2019. Freelancing and the struggle for work-time control. In: Rigour and Relevance in Entrepreneurship Research, Resources and Outcomes. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Popiel, P., 2017. “Boundaryless” in the creative economy: assessing freelancing on Upwork. Critical Studies in Media Communication34(3), pp.220-233.

Ruggieri, A., Mosconi, E.M., Poponi, S. and Silvestri, C., 2016. Digital innovation in the job market: an explorative study on cloud working platforms. In: Empowering organisations (pp. 273-283). Berlin: Springer, Cham.

Ropponen, A., Hakanen, J.J., Hasu, M. and Seppänen, L., 2019. 3 Workers’ health, wellbeing, and safety in the digitalising platform economy. Digital Work and the Platform Economy: Understanding Tasks, Skills and Capabilities in the New Era.

Shevchuk, A., Strebkov, D. and Davis, S.N., 2019. The autonomy paradox: how night work undermines subjective well-being of internet-based freelancers. ILR Review72(1), pp.75-100.

van der Zwan, P., Hessels, J. and Burger, M., 2019. Happy free willies? Investigating the relationship between freelancing and subjective well-being. Small Business Economics, pp.1-17.

 

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