Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Challenges and Needs for Support in Managing Occupational Health and Safety from Managers' Viewpoints

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Challenges and Needs for Support in Managing Occupational Health and Safety from Managers' Viewpoints

Article excerpt

Introduction1

Occupational health and safety (OHS) research addresses the essential role played by managers in improving employee health and safety at work, because they plan and lead as well as manage the OHS of production (e.g., DeJoy et al. 2004; Flin et al. 2000; Hale et al. 2010; Hofmann and Stetzer 1996; Zohar 2002). Thus, at all organizational levels, managers play an essential role when striving for the development of OHS in organizations. According to research (e.g., Conchie et al. 2013; Frick 2013; Hardison et al. 2014; Simola 2005; Tappura and Hämäläinen 2012), managers' own resources, competences, and commitments, along with their organizational environments and supports, are important to the successful establishment of OHS standards. At the organizational level, the management of OHS means enforcing systematic and formalized principles and procedures to improve OHS (e.g., Bluff2003; Frick and Wren 2000; Frick et al. 2000; Gallagher et al. 2001; OHSAS 18001:2007; Saksvik and Quinlan 2003). OHS management is based on regulations (D 89/391/EEC; L 23.08.2002/738) and voluntary forms, such as standards and guidelines for OHS management systems (e.g., Bluff2003; Gallagher et al. 2001; OHSAS 18001:2007). In this study, organizational OHS procedures refer to regulatory procedures, whereas other organizational procedures refer to voluntary procedures.

In recent decades, the organization, management, and nature of work have changed, resulting in emerging OHS risks, such as those that are psychosocial, and mental and emotional demands have increased (EU-OSHA 2007; Leka et al. 2011; Siegrist et al. 2004; Työterveyslaitos 2013). Psychosocial risks, such as work-related stress, violence, bullying, harassment, and unsolved conflicts, are widely recognized as major challenges to OHS, weakening occupational health and well-being as well as organizational performance (e.g., EU-OSHA 2007; Eurofound 2010; European Foundation 2007; Leka et al. 2011). According to the European Foundation (2007), work-related stress is one of the most commonly reported reasons for absence from work. Psychosocial hazards threaten employee health but also influence accident causation and occupational injuries (e.g., Bonde 2008; Clarke 2010; Clarke and Cooper 2004; De Jonge et al. 2000; Godin and Kittel 2004; HSE 2007; Karasek et al. 1981; Leka et al. 2011; Lundberg and Melin 2002; Sutherland and Cooper 1991; Theorell and Karasek 1996; Vahtera et al. 2000). Moreover, Law et al. (2011) found a significant relationship between adverse psychosocial work environments (PSWEs), including those featuring inappropriate behaviors like bullying and harassment, and related psychological health problems. At the same time, managers often work under conflicting pressures brought on by a continual sense of urgency, an excessive workload, conflicts in the work community, fragmented work, organizational confusion, and constant pressure to improve productivity and performance, achieve cost savings, and implement changes (e.g., Björk et al. 2014; Syvänen 2010; Syvänen and Kokkonen 2011; Työterveyslaitos 2013).

The focus of this study is on managing OHS when striving for a safe, healthy, innovative, and high-performance working environment. However, due to the nature of the participating organizations, the psychosocial aspects of OHS management are emphasized. This study is conducted in the public service sector, where the PSWE significantly influences the OHS of employees. However, in the public sector, employees generally work on variable tasks and they are exposed to nearly all types of OHS risks (Frick 2013). This study presents an example of the employer's role in improving the working environment of the public service sector.

The main objective of this study is to describe the challenging and difficult OHS situations managers encounter and the support they experience and require during these situations. Moreover, the employer's regulatory OHS responsibilities are discussed, the economic effects of OHS are considered, and suggestions for motivating employers to improve OHS are presented. …

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