Occupational health, safety, and ergonomics challenges and opportunities based on the organizational structure analysis: A case study in the selected manufacturing industries in Qom Province, Iran, 2015


Background: A suitable organizational structure plays an important role in the efficiency and predictability of different parts of organizations. Objectives: The aim of the study was to assess the organizational structure of the selected manufacturing industries located at the Qom Province, and its relations to occupational health and safety concerns and success in 2015. Materials and Method: This cross-sectional study was conducted among 39 randomly chosen manufacturing companies. The data collection was conducted using valid Robbins’s organizational structure questionnaire. Higher scores indicate higher levels of the respective components. Questionnaires were completed by middle managers of selected companies. Data were analyzed by Pearson correlation using SPSS version 20. Results: The average number of the employed personnel in these companies and organizations’ work experience was 105.1 ± 101.1 persons and 15.3 ± 12.1 years, respectively. Average scores of complexity, formalization, and centralization was 14.3, 21.3, and 31.2, respectively. Among the studied organizations, 38.6% of the organizations had formalization, 2.6% had complexity, and 56.6% had high centralization. The results of Pearson’s correlation test showed that there was a relation between complexity and organizational size, as well as centralization and work experience of the company significantly (P < 0.05). Conclusion: More than half of the studied organizations had a centralized structure. It should be noted that at a low level authority status, activities related to the health, safety, and ergonomics (HSE) field cannot have the appropriate performance. In addition, it revealed that more than 60% of the studied companies had not formalization. In summary, based on the results of the present study, favorable future conditions of HSE situation is not predictable.

Keywords: Conflict, health, safety, and ergonomics, human resources, industrial management, organizational structure

How to cite this article:
Khandan M, Aligol MH, Shamsi M, Poursadeghiyan M, Biglari H, Koohpaei A. Occupational health, safety, and ergonomics challenges and opportunities based on the organizational structure analysis: A case study in the selected manufacturing industries in Qom Province, Iran, 2015. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2017;10:606-11
How to cite this URL:
Khandan M, Aligol MH, Shamsi M, Poursadeghiyan M, Biglari H, Koohpaei A. Occupational health, safety, and ergonomics challenges and opportunities based on the organizational structure analysis: A case study in the selected manufacturing industries in Qom Province, Iran, 2015. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Mar 4];10:606-11. Available from: https://www.atmph.org/text.asp?2017/10/3/606/213119

Safety issues in organizations and industries from the viewpoint of protection of human resources and improving the efficiency are a key factor worldwide.[1] Also, it is clear that designing of a suitable organizational structure is considered as one of the most important factors in a successful organization. An organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, process, individual, and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational goals.[2] An organization can be structured in many different ways depending on its objectives. The structure of an organization will determine the modes in which it operates and performs.[3] The organizational structure allows the expressed allocation of responsibilities for different functions and processes to different entities such as the branch, department, workgroup, and individual as well as impact on the performance.[4] An organization’s strategy also depends on its structure.[5] A proper organizational structure can lead to individual and organizational innovation, as well as the ability to learn from experience.[6]

Most important dimensions of an organizational structure are complexity, formality, and centralization. These three factors are key elements in organizational effectiveness and management.[7] Complexity can be the natural consequence of a company’s success, but when not properly addressed, it makes companies slow to capture market opportunities, drives costs to higher-than-necessary levels, and demoralizes employees. Formalization is the degree to which the organization has official rules, regulations, and procedures. An organization may have a formal structure, but may operate informally. Centralization is the degree to which decisions are made at the top of the organization. The quality of movement and programs that stress delegating responsibility and decision making to lower levels result in decentralization.[8] Complexity refers to the number of different types of activities that occur in the organization.[9] The complexity can affect safety and effectiveness of activities.[10] It is clear that more complexity leads to more information that is needed for the process.[11] Work systems with high levels of formality allow their subordinate employees to know what to do and how or when to do.[12]

The effectiveness and efficiency of Safety, Health and Environment (HSE) Department similar to other parts of organization depends on bilateral compliance between HSE Department and top managers as well as creating a logical relation with other components of an organization.[13] The researchers believe that the arrangement and design of the structure of an organization can help to improving the organizational culture,[14] knowledge management,[15] staffs empowerment,[16] efficiency of staff,[17] and creativity of the workforce.[18] An organizational structure on the other hand plays a significant role in creating problems and risks in the workplaces.[19]

During the last century, thousands of occupational health specialists had been deployed across industries, organizations, were carried out to investigate the causes of accidents and occupational diseases.[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26] However, a large number of workers suffer from occupational injuries.[27] However it seems that occupational health and safety staff’s challenges had been little paid attention.[28] The results of a study showed that occupational hazards are reduced with changing conditions by increasing the autonomy and authority of the occupational health personnel.[29]

This study was conducted to evaluate the organizational structure style, forecasting the future situation and value of HSE among the manufacturing industries located in Qom Province (south of the capital of Iran, Tehran) in 2015. Qom Province was selected due to the following reasons: (a) lack of comprehensive information about the manager’s attitude, (b) the highest population growth rates, and (c) a wide range of small and medium industries are located in this province.[30] A technological change can have an effect on the occupational hazards as well as the HSE level. Hence, efficient control of the situation is more dependent on up-to-date and flexible management.[31] Because Qom Province has one of the highest rates of growth as well as industrialization in the Iran,[32] attention to the delivery of healthcare and improving the HSE is essential. Present results can be used to improve the efficiency and performance of HSE Department in the industries and organizations.

This study was designed to assess the organizational structure of the selected manufacturing industries located at the Qom Province and its relations to occupational health and safety conderns and success in 2015.

Materials and Methods

This cross-sectional study was conducted among 39 companies. We used Stephen Robbins questionnaires as a valid tool for gathering data about the organizational structure. Three components of the structure named formalization, centralization, and complexity were defined in the form of 24 questions (complexity: 7, formality: 7, and centralization: 10 questions) with answers based on 5-item Likert assessment.[33]

After preparing the list of manufacturing companies (between 14 and 400 employees) (SMEs), 39 companies were selected randomly. All participants were HSE managers in the selected companies. To all participants were given the confidence to feel free to leave the study without any restrictions or consequences. Also, the participants were ensured that all acquired information would remain confidential.

Based on the Robbins questionnaire ratings, if the centralization component score was between 31 and 50, it reflected the organization’s centralization and scores lower than 31 indicated the organization’s decentralization policy. If the formality component scores were calculated between 22 and 35, it suggested that the organization was recognized as very formal. A score equal to 35 represents more formality. Scores lower than 22 belong to the formality component and represent fewer formalities. For complexity, the component score should be similar to formality. If scores were calculated between 22 and 35, it suggested that the organization was recognized as very complex. A score equal to 35 represents more complexity. Scores lower than 22 belong to the complexity component and represents fewer complexity.[34] Furthermore, questions include the history of the company, number of employees, and sales market. The opinions of HSE managers about the problems and challenges ahead were collected. Finally, the data were analyzed using descriptive tests, t-test, and Pearson’s correlation by SPSS version 20.


The analysis revealed that the average number of personnel employed in these selected companies as well as history of the organizations was 105.1 ± 101.1 persons and 15.3 ± 12.1 years, respectively. A total of 61.8% of companies sold their products only on the domestic market and the rest, in addition to the domestic market, exports to the international market. From the viewpoint of the dimensions of organizational structure, 38.6% of studied organizations had formality, 2.6% had complexity, and 56.6% had high centralization. Information on these three parameters is shown in [Table 1].

Table 1: Characteristics of studied companies and scores of organizational structure questionnaire’s sub-factors (n=39)

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Based on the t-test, the three studied components (formalization, centralization, and complexity) between companies with domestic market and companies with foreign and domestic market was not significant difference (P > 0.05). Average scores of the complexity, formality, and centralization on companies with domestic market was 14.2, 20.8, and 31.1 as well as for internal and external sales organizations was 15.1, 20.1, and 31.6, respectively. On the other hand, the findings of Pearson correlation analysis showed that the complexity and the number of personnel were correlated (P < 0.01). In other words, with the increase of the employees, more complexity is observed in the organization. Centralization was also associated with a history of companies (P < 0.0). In other words, companies with higher centralization had less involvement of employees in decision making. It is noteworthy that the correlation coefficients were reported in the level lower than 0.5. This amount is variable between 0.464 (related to the history of the company and centralization) and 0.051 (related to the history of the company and complexity). Detailed data are shown in [Table 2].

Table 2: Pearson correlation coefficients and significance level of different variables

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The results of this study showed that the average number of employed people in every industry is 100. Industries in Iran are mostly in the small and medium scale with a significant share of production and economic activity.[35] In medium and small industries, the issue of the safety and health of employees may be neglected due to various reasons such as finances and cost, old technology, inappropriate organizational structure, market volatility, and challenges to find new internal and external markets.[36] Also, a good interaction with the health, safety, and environment is neglected and humanitarian issues of personnel working in these sectors are not taken seriously.

Regarding the issues of centralization subfactor, 22 companies of the studied firms had a mechanical structure (56.6%). Similar to the results of present study, Porkiani et al.[37] also found in a study on 26 public companies that 88.5% of organizations had a centralized structure. In centralized mechanical structures, delegation of authority was not done extensively. Decision-making in the mechanical structure with high concentration organizations is limited to the top management of the organization and specific decisions such as decisions around finance issues, human resources, approving proposed programs, and also decisions on reward and punishment would be taken without the full participation of relevant stakeholders and those who had corporate responsibility.[15] In the studied companies with a mechanical structure, managers of Health, Safety, and Environment Department had no free access to information and were not involved in the meetings, decision-making related to commercial affairs, purchasing, human resources and production by executive managers. On the other hand, they had no strong and effective presence in technical protection committees meetings and most legislation of these sessions remain stagnant. Similar to the results of this study, Miri and colleagues showed in their study that the industries such as oil company subsidiaries had a mechanical structure with high centralization and it had a negative effect on employees’ empowerment.[15] Based on the results of this study, managers of safety, health, and environment of the studied organizations believed that the organization’s management structure of the office under their control was not designed in accordance with the current conditions and was only an incomplete form of old structure. In addition, existing structures were not compatible with the life extension of the organization and changes in occupational risks. Also it did not act intelligent and flexible. Furthermore, all safety, health, and environment managers of firms with a mechanical structure complained of a lack of governance and organizational strength to perform the safety and health laws and regulations optimally. In contrast, in organic organizations, although organizational efficiency was higher, financial difficulties, challenges relating to technology, stagnant market, traditional management, and investment risk were all factors that hinder the effectiveness of the organization’s top-level executives to promote health and safety. Moreover, in all the studied companies, the heads of health, safety, and environment approved the contradiction in the organization. Contradiction is any conscious behavior that is seeking to deny others to reach their goals.[38] Because occupational health and safety is a key element of organization’s success,[36] the existence of such conditions in the surveyed manufacturing organizations could lead to not correctly understanding the mission and essence of health, safety, and environment sector. In such circumstances, the use of contradiction management techniques is essential.[39] Also top training of organizations’ managers and orienting them towards the benefits of health, safety, and the environment programs by using economics and equations such as cost-benefit will be helpful.

Based on the formalization component, 15 companies (38.6%) had a favorable formalization level. It seems that formalization in manufacturing organizations is lower than that in the public service organizations.[37] The reason for this goes back to the standard of service delivery in government organizations. Higher levels of formalization can contribute to the goals of improving the occupational health of employees. The results showed that in the studied companies, occupational health managers had little access to information and databases as well as data within their enterprise. Research shows that the creation of an organization’s IT infrastructure can have an impact on formalization by up to 22.8%.[40],[41] On this basis, full connectivity of health, safety, and the environment department to internal and external information systems equipping them to computer stuffs is recommended. Akbari et al.[42] examined the relationship between organizational structure, information technology, and knowledge management and found that the organizational structure had a direct impact on knowledge management in the organization. Therefore, utilizing the principles of strategic knowledge management would help the management of health, safety, and the environment in analyzed manufacturing organizations.

Similar to Khelashvili,[43] the results of the Robbins’ questionnaire depicted that only one company had complexity, whereas other companies had not experienced high complexity. The number of employees and the size of the industry are considered as the most important factors affecting the complexity of the organization.[24] Given that studied companies were particularly small and medium-sized ones, the low level of complexity was expected.

However, statistical analysis revealed that by increasing the number of personnel, the complexity increases (P < 0.01). Similar research in the public and service organizations had reported higher complexity.[37] Excessive complexity of the organization can affect negatively the organizational maturity of personnel,[43] and effective and timely communication and creativity,[18] and as well as entrepreneurship [44] makes change in safety culture of the organization [14] and reduces the personnel’s efficiency.[17] Although complexity was low in the studied companies, health and safety managers had no sense of achievement. It seems that middle managers in regard to formalization were below average and centralization above-average had no sufficient motivation level.[28] Because of the dominance of traditional management processes, they do not have the ability to run their own programs. None of the subjects had annual program in safety and health with a transparent budget.

Integration of an efficient occupational health and safety management system [25],[26] with the management system is recommended as one of the ways to strengthen the occupational health of industries’ and organizations’ personnel. Also, the organizational change and reform would be unenviable.[45] Structural correction is not merely a change of employment posts and organizational form but to modify the three components of structure namely “complexity,” “formalization,” and “centralization” that leads to basic and structural evolution.[46] On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that management systems need management commitment, which is a critical condition that needs to be applied effectively.[45],[47] Management commitment appears in various ways, providing the necessary resources for planning and implementing the system is one of the most important forms.[45],[48] For excellent management, focus on personal life style of employee and human factor in safety climate is important.[49],[50]


Based on the results of the present study, it seems that occupational health units in industries within present organizational conditions are not able to overcome organization’s current and future challenges. Increasing in formalization along with the decline in centralization in studied manufacturing firms would grant the growth and improvement of occupational health and safety management level. Therefore, organizational structures should be designed and modified based on its environment, technology, life cycle, and size. Also, effective communication with different levels of organization and the integration of management systems can help to have more effective units of health and safety environment in industries and organizations. Utilizing information technology and knowledge management to promote creativity and entrepreneurship of occupational health and safety specialists and productivity improvement is recommended. Life style and human factor in safety climate are important. Stractural and hard ware risk assessment methods for reduction of fatal and nonfatal accidents and hospitalization such as fracture, and so on, are important.


The authors would like to appreciate all honorable managers of HSE Departments who participated in this study for their gracious cooperation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ATMPH.ATMPH_110_17


[Table 1], [Table 2]

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