A comparative analysis of occupational health and safety risk prevention practices in Sweden and Spain

INTRODUCTION: Scandinavian countries such as Sweden implemented the occupational health and safety (OHS) measures in the European Directive 89/391/EEC earlier than other European counties, including Spain. In fact, statistics on workplace accident rates reveal that between 2004 and 2009, there were considerably fewer accidents in Sweden than in Spain. METHOD: The objective of the research described in this paper was to reduce workplace accidents and to improve OHS management in Spain by exploring the OHS practices in Sweden. For this purpose, an exploratory comparative study was conducted, which focused on the effectiveness of the EU directive in both countries. The study included a cross-sectional analysis of workplace accident rates and other contextual indicators in both national contexts. A case study of 14 Swedish and Spanish companies identified 14 differences in the preventive practices implemented. These differences were then assessed with a Delphi study to evaluate their contribution to the reduction of workplace accidents and their potential for improving health and safety management in Spain. RESULTS: The results showed that there was agreement concerning 12 of the 14 practices. Finally, we discuss opportunities of improvement in Spanish companies so that they can make their risk management practices more effective. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: The findings of this comparative study on the implementation of the European Directive 89/391/EEC in both Sweden and Spain have revealed health and safety managerial practices which, if properly implemented, could contribute to improved work conditions and accident statistics of Spanish companies. In particular, the results suggest that Spanish employers, safety managers, external prevention services, safety deputies and Labour Inspectorates should consider implementing streamlined internal preventive management, promoting the integration of prevention responsibilities to the chain of command, and preventing health and safety management from becoming a mere exchange of documents. The authors also encourage future research studies to use the methodology presented to compare and assess the European Directive 89/391/EEC implementation in other European countries.

Source : Morillas RM, Rubio-Romero JC, Fuertes A. J. Saf. Res. 2013; 47: 57-65.

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