Many workers, managers and occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals seek information on OSH risks, interventions and legislation [1–5]. Easy access to high-quality OSH information and advice may empower information seekers not only by increasing knowledge and understanding but also by improving how they cope with topics of work and health, such as improving poor working conditions [6–10]. However, many individuals have difficulties in finding high-quality OSH information [3, 11, 12].
Finding high-quality health information often requires specific skills or "health literacy" [13, 14]. The World Health Organisation defines health literacy as "the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and the ability of an individual to gain access to, understand and use information in ways that promote and maintain good health" . Both promoting health literacy by education and improving access to quality information could support OSH questioners in their search for answers.
Most workers, managers and OSH professionals access the Internet, or ask advice from OSH experts to find quality information [2, 3, 11, 16–18]. Although easily accessible, the internet often provides excessive amounts of information, which is not always of high quality [19–23]. Well-trained experts might be better able to provide questioners with tailored information or advice of high quality [24, 25]; however consulting trained experts may be hampered by restricted access and high costs [11, 26]. One solution might be to offer OSH questioners the ability to approach experts by computer or telephone free-of-charge [27–32].
For this purpose, several countries have set up telephonic or online expert services that provide information and advice to OSH questioners [1, 4, 5, 16, 31]. An online expert network has the additional advantage of providing easy access to many experts [31, 33]. Online expert networks allow knowledge to be stored and re-used more easily than telephonic helpdesks. Therefore, this knowledge will not be lost for the organisation or other questioners. Online networks can be accessed by computer or (smart)phone. Recently, Google and Yahoo launched similar online networks [34, 35]. We launched the online expert network ArboAntwoord, which is meant for OSH questioners, in October 2008 by a small scale campaign http://www.arboantwoord.com.
Knowledge about the satisfaction of questioners and the impact of information and advice provided might help to create or redesign health-related expert services. Although a number of expert services have been shown to result in satisfied questioners [4, 36, 37], it is still unknown which factors are associated with questioners' satisfaction and what the impact of the provided information and advice is. In other studies, perception of the quality of a new information facility (including user friendliness and accessibility) and the quality of the information provided (including information completeness and applicability) have been associated with high user satisfaction [38–40].
Accordingly, the aim of this study is to assess whether, and to what extent, perceived network quality and perceived information quality are associated with overall satisfaction with the online expert network ArboAntwoord. The information and advice provided by experts in ArboAntwoord may improve questioners' knowledge and understanding, and consequently their work or work functioning. Exploring the impact of information on OSH questioners is the second aim of this study.