Academic journal article Journal of Business Economics and Management

The Formation of a Good Safety Culture at Enterprise

Academic journal article Journal of Business Economics and Management

The Formation of a Good Safety Culture at Enterprise

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Safety culture is a key element in the development of complex models to explain or predict safety relevant outcomes, such as safety behaviour, safety compliance or accidents, and may help explain the "human factor" in relation to organisational safety issues and performance. These processes may be studied at different levels of analyses and even at different levels of analyses simultaneously (Cheyne et al. 2008). Safety culture contains three interacting elements: risk controls, attitudes and behaviour, and its effective development depends on good cooperation and communications between employers, employees and Occupational Health Services (OHS). In Estonia, the services provided by an occupational health physician, an occupational health nurse, an occupational hygienist, a psychologist or a specialist of ergonomics are considered to be OHS. These service providers are all called 'occupational health specialists' (OHsp). According to the Estonian Act on Occupational Health and Safety, only entrepreneurs or private medical companies may provide the OHS.

The benefits of OHS are obvious and objectively demonstrable. Economic evaluation (cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and cost utility analysis) of such service is thus important as a guide to rational choices, the dependency on the validity of assumptions made being the main limitation, along with the non-consideration of social and ethical objectives if decisions are based on costs and benefit alone. Ultimately, the formulation of policies on OHS must be both economically and ethically sound (Meng 2005; Grozdanovic 2001).

Work-related injuries and illnesses kill an estimated 1.2 million people around the world every year. 250 million work-related accidents and 160 million work-related illnesses occur annually (Somavia 2005) and these numbers translate into an annual economic loss of approximately 4% of the world gross national product (International ... 2001). Only an estimated 5-10% of the workers in developing countries and 20-50% of the workers in industrialized countries (85% in Finland, (Walters 1996) have access to adequate OHS. Relatively little information is available on the process and customers of OHS. The only indications of the coverage and contents of OHS are obtained indirectly form the information labour inspectors gather annually from employers. In addition, only a minority (22%) of workers is covered by the OHS and has access to the occupational health physician in Estonia (Jarvis and Tint 2007). Even in a developed country like the United States, approximately 70% of the 100 million workforce are not covered by OHS (Somavia 2005). The OHS have been endorsed by both the WHO and the ILO as a prescription for a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.

Although a healthier workforce will almost certainly mean decreased absenteeism and increased workers' compensation claims, one must still weigh the benefits against the costs and seek the most cost-effective way of achieving the same results. In the estimation of the benefits, a monetary value is apportioned to the avoided consequences (for example costs of health care, rehabilitation, or workers' compensation). The analysis should also take into consideration the fact that costs and benefits may be generated over a period of time, the costs and benefits often occurring in different time periods. Because costs or benefits 10 years later are not directly comparable with their value today. The effects on productivity and reduced sickness absence can also be quantified and reflected as savings. More sophisticated forms of cost-benefit analyses would factor other intangible benefits into the equation. Providing employees with on-site primary health care may give them a sense of loyalty to the company because the company is demonstrating that it cares for its employees. The full economic losses due to accidents are not demonstrated clearly in Estonia. …

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