Project: Worker participation practices: a review of EU-OSHA case studies: literature review


This project was submitted on 11/07/2014 and published by EU-OSHA

A positive health and safety organisational culture is underpinned by strong leadership by management together with the active involvement and participation of workers in which everyone accepts their rights, roles and responsibilities in relation to health and safety, and works collaboratively to prevent ill-health and injury, and to promote health and wellbeing. Effective leadership is required to provide strategic direction for the management of safety and health and to motivate staff to engage effectively in ensuring good safety and health performance. The commitment to effective worker participation needs to be visible and communicated to the entire workforce. An effective safety and health management system should be based on risk assessment, with the objective of identifying key occupational hazards and key at-risk groups and developing and implementing appropriate prevention measures. Effective worker participation and employee involvement in risk assessment and planning, and introducing measures is particularly important. But there should also be active worker participation and employee involvement in the strategic development of health and safety systems and policies and the implementation and evaluation of such systems and policies.
European legislation on occupation safety and health recognises the key role of worker involvement. Employers are required to consult and involve workers and their representatives in health and safety matters in addition to providing them with information and training. In turn, employees are required to cooperate with their employers on health and safety. The EU Framework Directive 89/391 on managing occupational safety and health (OSH) sets minimum requirements on workers consultation. Broadly speaking, employers must consult workers and/or their representatives, and allow them to take part in discussions regarding issues concerning health and safety procedures, operations and policies. Within this context, employers must respect the right of workers and their representatives to make proposals, and organise their balanced participation. There are a number of issues that employers must consult workers/worker representatives on, including: any measure that may substantially affect safety and health; the designation of workers responsible for OSH activities and first aid, fire and evacuation activities, and outside competent services; and the nature and use of information relating to risk assessments and groups of workers exposed to particular risks. National legislation and/or practices set specific requirements on information provisions and consultation practices, especially regarding worker representatives and the establishment of forums such as joint safety committees.
Full worker participation can be defined as the full and genuine participation of the workforce in the management of health and safety, where workers and their representatives are encouraged to take part in making decisions about managing health and safety at work. It is based on a two-way process of communication, where employers and employees/employee representatives: talk to one another, listen to one another’s concerns, raise concerns and solve problems together, seek and share views and information, discuss issues in good time, consider what everyone has to say, and make decisions together. Throughout the whole process, it is important that employees are well informed on what activities will take place and what changes the organisation intends to make. Their concerns must not only be listened to, but also acted upon. At its most effective, worker participation aims to develop a culture where relationships between employers and workers are based on active collaboration, trust, and joint problem-solving. In short, full worker participation requires effective communication and consultation, trust and respect, collaboration and partnership, talking, listening and cooperation. Worker participation needs to be planned and systematic, but it need not be complicated. It may involve a number of different methods, for example, a safety committee or ad hoc working groups. Direct involvement may take place through team talks, surveys, suggestion schemes, accident reporting systems, or during safety audits. Normally a combination of formal and informal methods are used, combining direct involvement of individual employees with indirect involvement via worker representatives, safety committees etc.

Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Chemical, Construction, Education, Engineering, Entertainment and Leisure, Environmental and Waste management, Finance, Fire, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Manufacturing, Media, Nuclear, Offices, Offshore, Other, Public Sector, Quarrying / Mining, Railway, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport

Organisation: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

12 Santiago de Compostela,
(Edificio Miribilla), 5th Floor,
+ 34 944-358-400
+ 34 944-358-401

Principal Investigator: Members of the Topic Centre on Occupational Safety and Health

Other Researchers: Juliet Hassard, Dan Dan Wang, and Professor Tom Cox CBE (I-WHO), United Kingdom (Task leaders)
Marie-Amélie Buffet, (EUROGIP), France
Roxane Gervais and Nikki Bell, (HSL), United Kingdom
Ferenc Kudász (OMFI), Hungary
Project management: Sarah Copsey, (EU-OSHA)

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