Validating Measures of Psychological Well-being by Contrasting Samples Employed in Hazardous and Less Hazardous Work
Deo J. W. Strümpfer, Riëtte J. Eiselen, Deon Meiring, Jack S. Phalatse
Journal of Psychology in Africa
Emotional Stability scales were validated. Study 1 compared mine rescue team members and ordinary miners (n = 34, 41) and Study 2 police special task force members and regular officers (n = 43, 41). In Study 1, SOC and job satisfaction predicted group membership. In Study 2, satisfaction with life and extraversion scales predicted group membership, as did SOC in a secondary analysis. The SOC scale could predict psychological well-being in hazardous work settings. Keywords: ego-resiliency,
... nal stability, mine rescue, police special task force, sense of coherence All work is demanding to a greater or lesser degree, but hazardous work is excessively demanding. Although specific types of hazards differ across occupations, varying combinations of fatality, injury, and psychological demands are involved, with the latter being of special concern here. The extent to which persons resile the psychological demands of hazardous occupations reflects their psychological well-being. The purpose of the two present studies was to validate three self-report measures that were, on theoretical grounds, considered to be related to psychological well-being. Membership of a hazardous occupation vs. membership of a less hazardous occupation in the same profession was used as a proxy measure of psychological well-being, and as the criterion in these studies. The studies were unusual in studying infrequently investigated hazardous occupational groups in relation to psychological health. Validation in terms of hard criteria is necessary in view of findings, reviewed by Eriksson and Lindström (2006) , and Flensburg-Madsen, Ventegodt and Merrick (2005) , from which they concluded that criteria based on perceptions which include behavioural aspects, may be dubious for purposes of validating at least one of the measures used in the present studies. Hazardous Occupations Two kinds of hazardous deployment provided the substance for two studies, viz., the work of mine rescue teams and the work of police special task forces. Although the kinds of work are widely different, there is similarity too. Scharf et al. (2001) proposed that the key feature in a range of "dynamic and hazardous" work environments is that the environments are under constant change. They wrote that: the requirement to continually adapt and respond to a dynamic and hazardous work environment places workers in these jobs at high risk, regardless of the specifics of the hazards. The constantly changing hazards require a skilled and vigilant workforce that can quickly adapt to the new hazards and changing risks (p. 1829). Mining context. With respect to mining disasters, forces of the earth are fundamentally uncontrollable and only predictable within wide margins. There is great variety among mine disaster situations and different parts of a disaster scene may change without warning. Disaster areas are usually degraded and hazards may be obscured by cluttered ground or unstable, unsupported structures. Mine rescue teams attend at mines throughout emergencies that call for technical expertise and specialized equipment. When lives are at stake, the team responds on a moment's notice, and sometimes with little regard to their own safety. Throughout, members are facing life threatening risks, for instance, further incidents of whatever caused the disaster: explosions, fire, or collapsing tunnels or supports. Constant informed vigilance is thus required. Time pressure is extreme, particularly in saving trapped and injured miners; occasionally, the persons they assist are friends and associates. During South African deep mine disasters rescue teams work where the virgin rock at 3-4 km underground can reach temperatures of 60+°C, where humidity at 100% prevents body cooling. Ventilation is usually collapsed or minimal, necessitating breathing equipment. Illumination is often minimal. The rescue teams frequently handle severely injured miners, as well as mangled remains, sometimes decayed at those temperatures. Complications could arise when hazards interact and overlap.