Viewing occupational safety management as an investment, not a cost


Dec 28, 2009

“With over 450 Europeans dying every day from work-related causes, workplace health and safety cannot be regarded as a luxury in these times of economic crisis.” That was the message of Jukka Takala, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), at the closing of the latest round of the world’s largest occupational health and safety campaign on Nov. 17.

Jukka Takala was joined at the campaign’s closing event in Bilbao, Spain, by Sven Otto Littorin, Swedish Minister of Employment (representing the Swedish EU Council Presidency); Celestino Corbacho, Spanish Minister of Employment and Immigration; and Gemma Zabaleta, Minister of Employment in the Basque Government.

Swedish minister Otto Littorin stated that “money spent on ensuring the health and safety of our workers is an investment, not a cost, taking into account that 6% of European GDP is being lost because of work accidents and ill health.” He also said that “occupational safety and health programs have the potential to make us better equipped to meet the future challenges of our demographic development and the increasingly globalised world economy.”

The Healthy Workplaces Campaign on risk assessment, which EU-OSHA has organised, has helped to raise awareness of risk assessment as the cornerstone of good health and safety management in the workplace, as well as identifying good practice in carrying it out. Thorough, regular assessment of workplace risks, the campaign has made clear, is something that organisations of all sizes can carry out simply and efficiently. Indeed, good occupational safety management should be seen as an investment, not a cost — it pays dividends in terms of increased productivity and so makes sound business sense.

Preliminary results were announced of the European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), looking particularly at the numbers of organisations of various sizes which carry out risk assessments. The survey shows that despite the legal obligation to carry out regular risk assessments, between 10 and 15% of enterprises having between 10 and 50 employees still do not carry out a risk assessment, or even a more informal ‘workplace check’. The survey also highlights that smaller establishments are more likely to outsource a risk assessment to a service provider. In fact, 40% of small enterprises (10-19 employees) contract an external service provider, compared to only 17% of large enterprises (250 to 499 employees). In the EU-27, over a third (36%) contract out their risk assessment, and there are large differences between countries.

EU-OSHA also gave a preview of its free Online Risk Assessment (ORA) tool, which will make it much easier for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to carry out risk assessments.