Our institutional analyses and case studies suggest that the environmental and occupational systems in Poland have been notably (though not equally) successful in making the transition to democracy and market economy. The emergent EH&S system, in relation to private firms, appears to be operational. By ‘‘operational’’ we mean that the system defines explicit expectations and administrative procedures to be met by firms, makes regulatory decisions in a timely manner and without excessive social cost, provides incentives for improved performance, accurately monitors EH&S performance, identifies those firms that are out of compliance with official norms and has capacity to assess the magnitude of hazards to environment and health and to eliminate high-risk operations. Polish environmental and occupational protection systems possess these characteristics to varying degrees.
But it also has features that may undermine its effectiveness, now or in the future. Specifically, improvements in the health and safety performance in workplaces are slow, owing to the low safety culture among workers and managers, low expectations of safety performance among regulators and limited interest among unions and workers in occupational health and safety issues. The inflexibility of the occupational enforcement system is an additional obstacle to efficient regulatory decision making. Finally, the system’s knowledge-intensive approach to regulating industrial hazards may require more technological and human resources than are available within the system for implementation or enforcement.
The apparent success of the EH&S system in Poland, its shortcomings notwithstanding, may come as a surprise to many Western and Polish