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The benefits of worker participation in safety and health

worker-consultCreating a healthy and safe workplace is not solely the responsibility of management, worker involvement is vital too. Employees have a big incentive to improve occupational safety and health because they are often the ones who suffer the most from any failings.

Worker participation is an important part of managing health and safety. Managers do not have the solutions to all health and safety problems, while workers and their representatives have the detailed knowledge and experience of how the job is done and how it affects them. Therefore workers and managers need to work together closely to find joint solutions to common problems.

The main benefits of worker participation in safety and health include:

  • Lower accident and sickness rates
  • Reduced costs and reduced risks because employee absence and turnover rates are lower, accidents are fewer, the threat of legal action is lessened
  • By getting involved at the planning stage, workers are more likely to identify the reasons for taking a particular action, help find practical solutions, and comply with the end result
  • If workers are given the opportunity to participate in shaping safe work systems, then they can advise, suggest, and request improvements – helping to develop measures to prevent occupational accidents and ill-health in a timely and cost effective manner
  • Improved standing among suppliers and partners
  • A better reputation for corporate social responsibility among investors, customers and communities
  • Increased productivity – employees are healthier, happier and better motivated

For employers it is about obtaining help to identify the real problems and finding the right solutions and having a motivated workforce.

For workers it is about preventing themselves from being harmed by their work.

According to the law, workers must be informed, instructed, trained and consulted on health and safety. Full participation goes beyond consultation – workers and their representatives are also involved in making decisions.

Worker participation in safety and health is a simple two-way process where employers and their workers/ worker representatives:

  • Talk to one another
  • Listen to each other’s concerns
  • Trust and respect each other
  • Discuss issues in good time
  • Consider what everyone has to say
  • Make decisions together
  • Look for and share views and information

Worker consultation is enshrined in health and safety law because of its importance in preventing risks and finding effective solutions. Workplaces in which employees actively contribute to health and safety often have a lower occupational risk level and accident rates.

The main reasons why workers should actively influence management decisions include:

  • Worker participation helps in developing realistic and effective ways of protecting workers
  • By getting involved in an issue at the planning stage, workers are more likely to identify problems and their causes, help find practical solutions, and comply with the end result
  • If workers are given the opportunity to participate in shaping safe work systems, then they can advise, suggest, and request improvements – helping to develop measures to prevent occupational accidents and ill-health in a timely and cost effective manner
  • Where workers are involved from an early stage they will feel commitment to the solution
  • Communication and motivation in general will be improved

More information on the section dedicated to Worker participation on the EU-OSHA website.

Our primary focus is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Media partner of EU-OSHA – the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. We actively promote the Healthy Workplaces campaign to our worldwide readership.

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