Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

'Safety Matters Have Become Too Important for Management to Leave It Up to the Workers' -the Nordic OSH Model between Implicit and Explicit Frameworks

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

'Safety Matters Have Become Too Important for Management to Leave It Up to the Workers' -the Nordic OSH Model between Implicit and Explicit Frameworks

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Nordic Working Environment (WE) model, as a part of the Nordic Labour Market model, constitutes a long tradition of cooperation between social partners and the state, including collective agreements and participative approaches. This model has been taken for granted as an implicit framework with a strong impact on the governance of the WE in the Nordic Countries (Lindøe et al. 2001:22). The Nordic WE model has also provided an important impetus for the development of the EU Framework Directive for the WE (Riis & Jensen 2002). In a globalized economy with increased competition and flux of management concepts across borders, it is relevant to question whether the Nordic WE model will remain as the basic framework for the governance of the WE. This article explores institutional changes in the governance of the WE and critically examines how these changes might influence the Nordic WE model, using the construction industry as the exemplar.

In a conversation I had with safety representatives involved in the building of the large and prestigious Multimedia house of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, "Danmarks Radio" (DR), they expressed that "safety matters have become too important for management to leave it up to the workers". This observation by the safety representatives is symbolic of the changes in the governance of the WE that will be explored in this paper. The construction industry is known for being one of the most hazardous workplaces, because of the higher frequency and severity of accidents in the Nordic countries (Mikkelsen et al. 2004), as well as in the EU (Eurostat 2004; Lindøe et al. 2001). The client DR was aware that incidences of poor work safety in the construction of the Multimedia house could jeopardize the brand of DR. The client DR had the goal that the building site of the new multimedia house should be the safest in Denmark, and they put a lot of efforts in the management of the WE during the construction. In a ceremony in the Spanish city Bilbao, November 2004, the project received the 'European Good Practise Award 2004', granted by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2004). Hereby the reputation as a responsible client and a safe construction site were established.

This event can be seen as an expression of a turn of events in which the WE has assumed greater strategic importance to companies in their endeavours to demonstrate social responsibility. However, seen in a historical perspective, companies' social responsibility for the WE started a long time ago. The Nordic WE model, building on a strong cooperation among social partners and the state, is an institution associated with certain structures, understandings and social practices, which for over 100 years has developed and institutionalized social responsibility for people at work (Andreasen et al. 1999; Anne Trine Larsen 2005; Lindøe et al. 2001). National and international legislation and agreements between social partners have increasingly meant that employees have been involved in decisions affecting the management of companies (Hägglund & Degerblad 1996:143-149; Kristiansen 2005:388). Seen in this perspective, the past 10 years' more intensive focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) in management circles, by authorities and various international organizations, seems to knock on open doors.

This paper argues that the social responsibility historically has been institutionalized in a number of societal institutions in the Nordic countries that allocates rights and duties, and thus limits the discretion of companies when it comes to the WE (Kristiansen 2005; Walters & Frick 2000). However, what is accepted as a social responsible behaviour will be under constant change and influenced by the extant institutional framework and governance structures (Rocha 2010). This assumption also entails that the predominant governance principles informed by the Nordic WE model in the various historical periods will influence social responsibility related to the WE. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.