Fabian Demicoli

SME FORUM: ADAPTING TO CHANGE

 

 

 

        

 Workshop 3 : Health and Safety issues

 

  • – SMEs are considered as an essential element in economic recovery and job creation.
  • – Within Europe, there are 19 million SMEs operating in hugely different sectors and employing nearly 75 million people. However, SMEs also record an over proportional 82% of all occupational injuries, even rising to about 90% for fatal accidents – a single accident can have catastrophic consequences on SMEs.

 

  • – This is because SMEs do not usually have the recquired technical knowledge in risk control, ability to impart information, resources for training, monitoring and supervision.

 

  • – New patterns of work can also lead to new problems, while longer working hours may lead to increased fatigue and greater risks of accidents.

 

  • – Article 118a of the Single Europeam Act recognizes the special needs of SMEs in respect of occupational health and safety.

 

  • – Although all OHS legislation is applicable on SMEs, consideration must also be given to their special requirements in the implementation of the legislation:

 

a) no additional bureaucratic burdens

b) easily understood legislation

c) preparation of guidance in implementation

d) dissemination of information-easily accesible information

– Prime motivator should be the knowledge that improving health and safety is integral to business risk management, while benefits include a mix of both tangible and intangible benefits, such as maintenance of reputation, client requirements, controlling insurance premium costs, reduction in absence rates as well as general improvements in health and safety.

Questions that need to be answered:

 

  • (i) Should OHS be considered only as a legal requirement or are there any associated benefits for SMEs?
  • (ii) Should SMEs be allowed to have lower OHS standards?
  • (iii) What could be done to facilitate compliance by SMEs, and to help them achieve better standards of OHS?

 

The workshop included persons from private organisations, public and NGO's.

A discussion took place about the relationship between employers and employees and what is and what is not construed at law as a contract of employment.

As the business environment is changing so are risks. New risks are emerging that must be taken care of.

Stress and other mental illnesses are also an issue that need to be addressed but the OHSA is not getting involved in these because of limited resources.

All participants agreed that there is a need for greater awareness and training in health and safety matters.

Some participants argued that they have done everything possible to make the environment at work as healthy and safe as possible but the culture of the employees is one where they do not follow instructions and wear equipment. It is difficult to fire workers that do not follow health and safety rules becuase some of the workers are difficult to replace. Everytone agreed that a culture change among workers was necessary.

It was also clear that health and safety matters is not high on the agenda of business people. They perfer to discuss matters such as access to finance, marketing, cutting red tape and bureaucracy and so on.

Resources are required to implement health and safety at work. Micro and small organisations found it difficult to allocate resources to this subject.

 

 

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