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Due to accidents at work, around 5% of people were forced to change their job or place of work or reduce their working hours. In all, 0.2% stopped working permanently.

At an individual level, the personal costs of an accident, emotional and financial, can be high. As well as the pain and mental distress, it can cause a major life change. Injury insurance systems aim to protect the injured and their dependants but compensation varies significantly from country to country.

From a corporate perspective, accidents disrupt production, thus increasing costs and sometimes undermining the organisation’s reputation. Demands on public services, such as health care, also increase.

The net effect of occupational accidents is a significant national economic loss. Depending on the country, costs vary from 1-3% of gross national product.

These costs ultimately fall on all citizens, both taxpayers and consumers. The question is: Are we really willing to continue to pay this high price? This is essentially a question of political will, as the economics speak for themselves: more effective accident prevention would

Despite improvements in occupational safety over the last decade, more and more worker lose their lives each year through work-related accidents throughout the world. In the European Union more than 75 000 are so severely disabled that they can no longer work. Moreover, major surveys have found that people experience more physical problems at work than before, dispelling the often fashionable belief that new technology has eradicated difficulties such as manual lifting of heavy objects.

The world of work is changing. Globalisation, downsizing, the trend towards a service economy, part-time work, temporary work, subcontracting, an ageing workforce – these have all played a part. What are the implications for accident prevention?

Prevention strategies can be divided into two groups. The first, on the basis of globalisation and the market-oriented economy, calls for marketing and the promotion of safety. The second, recognising how work organisation has changed and the level of knowledge has increased, opts for making managers and workers as responsible as possible.

Take for example Janssen Pharmaceutica used to have a reward scheme for units with a good safety record. Workers in departments with no accidents at all during a certain period of time received a present. However, not everybody was happy with this system, so Janssen developed a new evaluation system with different criteria, called ‘Prevention Share’.

Its basic principles were:

  • Pro-active performance measurement: the focus and measurement of efforts to prevent accidents at departmental level (management, employee involvement, innovation and continuous improvement).
  • Safety, health and environment incentive programme: promotion of safety, health and the environment and a positive appreciation of efforts to improve all these at departmental level.

The word ‘share’ was chosen because the value can go up or down. Scores are calculated using a clearly defined system. The share value equals a prize, which can either be a present for the department as a whole (for example a work of art) or a gift for an individual employee.

The project was very successful and generated a positive prevention culture within the company. Every department made a big effort and the accident rates dropped to their lowest-ever level.

OSH as a purchasing criterion show that inspired the development of management systems that integrate occupational safety and health into management strategy as proofed by the adoption of  VCA – Veiligheids Checklist Aannemers (Contractor’s Safety Checklist) in petrochemical industry.

This procurement system was developed in the petrochemical industry in the Netherlands and has now spread to other sectors and countries.

The growth in contract work has led to the use of uniform requirements for contractor OSH training or OSH management systems (policy, objectives, procedures, strategy, accident rates, etc.) A third party has to carry out the certification or the initial approval.

Part of its success seems to be the result of the system’s simplicity and practicality and also because the large client companies participated in its development and used their OSH experience to define the criteria.

Safety promotion and marketing can help to raise awareness among different groups of users, who are less familiar with safety matters and so have to be convinced of their own needs.


(this article written for 1BINA.my)