Topic II: Occupational Safety and Health Strategic Approaches

Occupational Safety and Health Strategic Approaches

  • Continuation of discussions in Cascais

    In Portugal, the workgroup recognized that strategic approaches should have tripartite design and implementation, clear objectives, priorities and tradeoffs, be evidence-based and subject to periodic evaluation. The workgroup also agreed that strategic approaches should be developed at the enterprise, industrial sector, national, and transnational level. Voluntary approaches are important, but mandatory approaches are necessary as well. Strategic actions should address small, medium, and large enterprises. 
  • Similarities and differences between the EU and the USA 

    EU has a goal of reducing total incidence of fatal injuries by 25% in 2020. Each member state is encouraged to develop a national strategy to accomplish this goal and to implement it. Among the issues to be addressed are emerging hazards and the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

    OSHA has recently adopted a revised strategic plan. OSHA’s goal is to improve workplace safety and health through enforcement of occupational safety and health regulations and standards and to improve workers’ knowledge of health and safety rights and requirements, and their ability to report violations. OSHA intends to accomplish these strategic goals with the following strategies: strong enforcement; ensuring workers have a voice; refocusing compliance assistance; changing workplace culture by encouraging employers to “find and fix” hazards; developing innovative approaches to address hazards and improve interagency collaboration; improving and modernizing workplace injury and illness tracking; strengthening OSHA’s use of science; ensuring state plans are “at least as effective as” Federal OSHA; and conducting OSHA’s work with transparency, openness, integrity, and humility.

    The discussion revealed general agreement that strategic approaches need both a vision and a narrative to change attitudes about OSH. The goal should focus on prevention as a means to realize the vision of a safe workplace.
  • The balance between vision and continuity

    Narrative is important for telling the story of why OSH is important to both cultures—EU and US. By balancing vision (focusing on introducing changes to secure the OSH goals to be achieved, e.g., a reduction in injuries and illnesses or reductions in serious injuries and fatalities) and continuity, the ‘story’ of why OSH is important can be told in a nonpolitical manner that focuses on the needs and desires of society. The workgroup believed that too often OSHA serves as a political football that is moved forward—or fumbled—depending on who is in power at any given moment.
  • Gathering Information
    • Surveys
      In the EU, member states conduct surveys that can help to assess progress toward EU strategic objectives. Surveys indicate that OSH strategic approaches are widely adopted. Institutional arrangements differ with regard to form and degrees of social partner involvement. Surveys measure movement toward goals. Measureable targets are concentrated on occupational accidents. 
    • Harmonization
      The workgroup decided that harmonization was a step ‘too far yet’; however, it was noted that the possibility existed for limited question sharing in comparing the US and EU approaches to developing OSH strategies (and practices)
  • Key Performance Indicators 

    Workgroup members agreed that it is possible to measure prevention and discussed a variety of ways in which this could be done.
    • Variety of metrics available
      In the US, metrics focus mostly on lagging indicators. There exists a crisis in underreporting. Recent efforts are shifting focus to different metrics, such as vulnerable populations, persistent violators. Other metrics could be used, such as lost productivity from OSH, return on investment. 
    • Strategic Metrics
      The workgroup agreed that there was not a single set of metrics that was of universal application. The appropriate metrics for a given strategy (e.g. at supranational, national, regional, sectoral or enterprise level) depended on the prevailing circumstances and the needs of those responsible for delivering the strategy. However, the workgroup considered that it was possible to define some criteria to help the choice of appropriate metrics: 
      • Leading indicators should be broadly applicable across sectors and enterprises within sector
      • Should include both leading and lagging indicators
      • Should be applicable within enterprises
      • Should be transparent and public
      • Should monitor systems, not just discrete events
      • Should involve workers and trade unions.

  • Case Studies 
    • Narrative on OSH
      Demonstrate how effective OSH strategies have had a positive impact on business, including increased productivity and product quality. Case studies also serve to demonstrate effective methods for disseminating and implementing ideas that impact SMEs. 
    • Impact on business
      The workgroup agreed that it was important to develop case studies showing how OSH strategic approaches had a positive economic impact for business. The group discussed developing tools for doing so.
    • Tools for business
      Several EU tools were discussed by the workgroup: EU OSHA’s ESENER survey, as a means to understand how OSH in enterprises is viewed across the EU Member States, leading to better comparisons among the Member States; the European Scoreboard 2009 results, demonstrating the progress of Member States in relation to the objectives of the 5-Year Community Strategy on Health & Safety; the workgroup also discussed the applicability of a new online risk assessment tool (for SME’s) developed by EU OSHA.
    • Systematic Action
      The workgroup discussed how systematic action, derived through awards programs (e.g., US National Safety Council’s R. W. Campbell Award) led to reduced risk by underscoring the value of leadership
    • SMEs
      The workgroup agreed that SMEs had specific needs and challenges. They were not simply cut-down versions of larger organizations. They have different motivators and face different barriers than large enterprises
  • Effectiveness of Strategic Models

    The workgroup’s discussion focused on the strong links Strategic Models have with metrics; how preventative actions were as important as risk reduction outcomes (including the design of facilities, processes, and systems), and how, within the context of strategic models, enterprises focused systematic approaches and strategies at all levels—with strategies being contingent upon working environment situations at hand (there are no global solutions)
  • Objectives
    • The overall objective of OSH Strategic Approaches should be collaboration on research on new and emerging risks to inform strategies and develop tools to better inform any resulting strategies
  • A Different Paradigm

    In the final hours of its discussion on the methods under which OSH Strategic Approaches should be considered, the workgroup agreed that any approach to developing OSH strategies must, first and foremost, meet tripartite needs—at the government level and at the enterprise level, both of which ultimately affect labor. The workgroup’s revised thinking focused on these five elements: 

    • A Communication/education strategy, providing information to the public and telling the story about why OSH/ESH is important. This facet focuses on:
      • Content for training centers (in OSHA and at enterprise level)
      • Content for an education system (e.g., the R.W. Campbell Award case studies focusing on the development of OSH strategies at a higher level)
      • Information for public use and consumption
    • An Enforcement/Implementation strategy, focused on:
      • Policy development
      • System/processes development
      • A balance of responsibility/competencies/accountability (between employers and employees)
      • Incentives/motivation
    • Risk reduction/Continuous Improvement efforts focused on:
      • Development and implementation of a data collection strategy
      • Development of agreed upon assessment methods
      • Development of control measures, focusing on a hierarchy of control (through Prevention through design)
    • An Engagement/Empowerment strategy focusing on:
      • Partnership building between employers, employees and the community
      • Development of motivation tools and incentives
      • Competency building (amongst all parties, esp. employers and employees)
      • Organizational support and leadership at all levels
    The overall emphasis of this perspective is to build synergies focused on two tiers (government and enterprises), with the third tier (labor) being impacted by both.
  • Future US/EU Collaboration

    The workgroup agreed to explore development of a risk-assessment e-tool through a collaborative effort between US OSHA, the EU, labor, industry and NIOSH. The workgroup suggested that such an e-tool be modeled on the current EU e-tool which was presented at the Conference. In addition to the EU tool, OSHA, and both labor and industry groups have developed risk assessment tools. The goal of future collaborative efforts would be to explore the development of a risk assessment e-tool that could be used universally in the US and EU.