The management of occupational health and safety is not as satisfactory as we believed
“We have achieved a great deal, but if we are to fulfil our legal obligations then we must roll up our sleeves and work a little harder,” Hasse Nordlöf, researcher at the University of Gävle.
The Swedish image
We have the image of being rather good at the management of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Sweden. Nevertheless, figures from the Swedish Work Environment Authority show that roughly fifty percent of companies do not attain that position.
"We have achieved a great deal, but if we are to fulfil our legal obligations we must roll up our sleeves and work a little harder."
Factors that are important
The researchers have looked at the work environment and health and safety management in manufacturing companies in the region.
They wanted to investigate the prerequisites of the companies that achieved success in their OHS work.
“We became interested in the factors that either contribute towards a positive result or prevent successful occupational health and safety management,” says Hasse Nordlöf, researcher at the University of Gävle.
The importance of systematic procedures
A systematic management of occupational health and safety procedures calls for a variety of actions. That one is supportive on a regular basis, that one makes an inspection of the working environment a regular occurrence and that one then evaluates the potential risks that crop up.
"Many work places today lack a functioning systematic OHS routine. In actual fact the systematic procedure does not need to be more complicated than making a note in the calendar at regular intervals, that now is the time for an inspection."
Larger companies are better at it
One found that larger, more economically stable companies, and with positive health and safety conditions also had a more systematic management of health and safety.
"It is not so easy in the smaller companies. There are fewer individuals and maybe no one with specific responsibility for health and safety. The boss or owner may have the ultimate responsibility and there may be a great deal that he/she must prioritise so OHS management gets deferred."
Review the surroundings and play it down
One solution is to play down the OHS work. To encourage an open climate and milieu where it is deemed important to work in a safe manner.
"Dare to raise these issues, discuss things with the employees so that it becomes a natural topic of discussion in the day- to - day activities at work."
In interviews with the employees it emerged that the individual was responsible for working safely; that it is up to each individual to work in a safe way.
Generally, employers think that the work environment is prioritised more than the safety representatives in companies.
"One often experiences a conflict also, between production and working safely. It is therefore important to have a dialogue and greater transparency in communication, thus trying to make the correct decision along every step of production."
Even if the economic advantage of OHS is not always obvious it does cause a ripple effect in an organisation. It can be a part of a prominent trademark."That one has a working situation where the safety and health of the employees is something that many employees think is important."
Hasse Nordlöf defends his thesis ”Prerequisites and Possibilities for Manufacturing Companies to Prioritise and Manage Occupational Health and Safety”, on the 3rd of December at 1.00 pm in Krusenstjernasalen next to the library at the University of Gävle.
For further information, please contact:
Hasse Nordlöf, doctoral student, Department of Occupational and Public Health at the University of Gävle
Tel: 026- 64 84 57
Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Photo: Ove Wall