Occupational Health and Safety for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

Occupational Health and Safety for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

Edited by E. Kevin Kelloway and Cary L. Cooper

Small and medium sized enterprises constitute the vast majority of businesses in most developed economies. Although a large number of people are employed in such organizations, research and practice in occupational health and safety has largely ignored the unique challenges of this sector. In this highly relevant book, international experts in the field summarize existing knowledge and identify the best practices for enhancing occupational health and safety in small and medium sized enterprises. The authors specifically identify solutions that are appropriate for small businesses.

Chapter 2: Obstacles, Challenges and Potential Solutions

Sharon Clarke

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, organisational behaviour


Sharon Clarke INTRODUCTION The study of occupational safety has traditionally focused on large bureaucratic organizations, which manage high-hazard technologies, such as chemical and nuclear power, mining and transport (Hale, 2003), or within industries with historically high accident rates, such as construction and manufacturing. However, this emphasis has led to the relative neglect of research into occupational safety issues that face small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Indeed, there has been a tendency to assume that differences between SMEs and large enterprises are simply a matter of scale, and that lessons learnt from the study of large enterprises can be readily transferred to SMEs. This is evidently not the case: SMEs have failed to keep pace with safety improvements achieved within larger businesses and risks to occupational safety remain substantially greater in SMEs, as reflected in significantly higher workplace accident and injury rates (Fabiano et al., 2004; McVittie et al., 1997). Whilst safety improvements have led to sustained reductions in accident and injury rates for large organizations, SMEs have failed to match these reductions. For example, McVittie et al. (1997) examined the Canadian construction industry from the late 1980s through to the early 1990s; this study showed that whilst the construction industry overall had achieved a significant 44 per cent reduction in injuries, accident frequency was falling at a significantly faster rate in larger firms compared to SMEs. Furthermore, for some high-hazard industries, such as quarrying, mining and construction, the risk factor associated with smaller firms is particularly high. Based on...

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