The official in the company’s EDP Department and the claims adjuster in the Occupational Injury Department were involved in intensive collaboration for a period of about six months. They had never previously had the opportunity to work together and did not know each other well. The EDP specialist is the head of his department, which forms a part of the company’s central financial administration, positioned immediately below head-office management. The occupational-injury claims adjuster is head of one of the company’s business units, the Occupational Injury Department, which is geographically located in another part of the town.
The EDP Department has the duty, on a continuous basis, to rationalize and redesign the forms used by the company, so that the registration of documents and correspondence within the company’s various business units is simplified and made as effective as possible.
The Occupational Injury Department has the task of handling the occupational-injury claims of its policyholders (circle of clients) in a scrupulous and accurate manner, so that clients feel that they are correctly treated. The EDP Department has a rationalizing function in the company, whereas the Occupational Injury Department has a client-oriented function in a specialized area of insurance business.
The occupational-injury claims adjuster has daily contacts with other officials in his own work group and also with members of other work groups within the Occupational Injury Department. These contacts are made primarily to discuss matters concerning occupational injuries that will enable the maintenance of an intra-departmental consensus on the guiding principles for claims adjustment. The Occupational Injury Department lives in a world of its own within the company, and has very few direct contacts beyond those with its own circle of clients. Contact with the rest of the company is extremely limited.
The EDP Department is a part of the company’s central financial-control system. The head of department has brief but regular contacts with all parts of the company, in fact more with these parts than with the personnel of parallel departments in central finance.
The primary reason why collaboration between the EDP official and the occupational-injury claims adjuster arose is that the EDP Department received instructions from management to so design its rationalization activities that insurance officials in the business units were able to increase their productivity, and thereby provide scope to accommodate a wider circle of clients (in part by offering new kinds of policies/insurance packages). The occupational-injury claims adjuster reacts with great hesitation to the EDP official’s proposal when the latter indicates management’s motive. The adjuster wants to achieve his own goal and fulfil his own function in the company, namely that of satisfying the needs of policy holders for the scrupulous administration of matters concerned with occupational injuries. He considers that this goal is incompatible with a further increase in productivity.
The interaction between the official from the EDP Department and the occupational-injury claims adjuster is complicated by factors concerned with their different locations within the organization, their different kinds of obligations and their differing “points of view” on activities in general. In other words, the two officials have to approach problems (in this case the problems of profitability) from different perspectives.
What we have discovered is the existence of conflicting goals and forces, which are built into an organizational design for activities, and which make up a platform for interaction between two officials.
The following organizational change was studied in one of the major Swedish engineering companies. Here we find a good example of where the main objective was to improve/increase the level of health at work. The locality is a large industry in a rural area where it is impossible for trained secretaries to easily find other jobs. In practice, staff are forced to accept what this major concern can offer if they want to carry on with their special working skills. Some 50 women worked there as secretaries. Most of them were married to men also employed by the company and so were doubly bound to whatever work the area could offer. The common problems for the secretaries were the duties and salary scales. The company offered no opportunities for job development, training or promotion, and the work of the secretaries in the main consisted of simple routine duties, and so some of them were regarded as over-qualified. Management saw secretarial positions as “the end of the line”, a staff policy which created great irritation among the secretaries. The work changes which arose out of this discontent went on for four years.
The intention was to obtain professional vocational development within the framework of secretarial employment; the problem was that there was no demand for this either from management or other staff categories. So the 50 secretaries had to carry through their objectives in the face of strong opposition. Here is a summary of how their efforts to bring about change progressed step by step.
The problem was first raised at a local meeting of the white-collar union. One of the secretaries was present. She pointed out that most of her colleagues did work which seemed to fall into other occupational classifications. The matter was noted but no action was taken. Some secretaries then approached the union’s local committee and asked the chair to arrange a meeting with a number of their executives. This was done. Salary scales and vocational development for the secretaries was discussed. But interest declined after the meeting.
An internal consultant took over the problem and tried, in vain, to make the union take responsibility for some follow-up. A second internal consultant, an expert in job evaluation, became involved. Together with a firm of consultants, a survey was carried out among the secretaries. The result showed that dissatisfaction was widespread.
At the request of the union and management, the consultants arranged a number of conferences for the secretaries and their immediate superiors.
The intention here was to clarify for management what their working conditions were in practice and what, in more explicit form, their wishes for vocational development were, all within the framework of their secretarial duties. A great deal of hard work was done at these conferences. Prejudices and oppositional attitudes were ventilated. A list of problems was drawn up. A total of 45 managers and 53 secretaries participated. After this problem analysis stage was completed, the consultants made it clear that their contribution was over.
The secretaries decided to take on the job themselves in the phase which now followed. Among possible solutions, they selected a business-economic strategy-this with the assumption that it would increase managerial interest in the matter. They divided themselves into small, specialist working groups (technology, ergonomy, purchasing and so on). Each group took upon itself to produce proposals to improve secretarial work. They also worked out a cost calculation for each proposal.
During the next few years 22 working groups were formed to solve varied problems. Six working groups were in operation 4 years after the start. From the names of these groups we can see where interest for effectiveness lay: technology in the future, office materials, travel service, copy-saving measures, training, sensitivity training. They were more and more successful in gaining attention for their proposals, many of which were carried through.
A number of rationalization measures arose from the studies made by the groups. Now nobody does any unnecessary work. Manuscripts are accepted as working material. Secretaries perform copy typing only where necessary. An office computer system has been procured. The secretarial group lost 10 staff by attrition (usually by moving to another part of the country.) The secretaries started to be consulted by the company’s recruitment department when a vacant secretarial post was to be filled. They were asked to propose reorganizations so that new staff would not be needed. Up to now, 19 secretaries have been promoted to a higher job classification with higher salaries as their work became more skilled. Management is satisfied with the organizational changes which have taken place.
The original idea of the project was to cut out unnecessary and unqualified items from secretarial work and add more qualified duties. This succeeded; at the same time a great deal of expensive duplication of work and long-winded working routines were discovered. After a while, the process could continue in other forms. It was integrated into the work of the staff department under the name RGSD (Reference Group for Secretarial Development).
For some while, this organizational change became known all over the country. A number of group members were invited to committees and conferences around the country to describe the project.
Psychosocial health consequences. These work changes were of immense importance for the secretaries personally. For most, it meant a greater consciousness of their vocational role and of the opportunities which existed to improve the secretarial function in the company. A team spirit grew up when they looked at problems common to them all. As a job collective they saw, step by step, the result of their tenacious work. Their higher qualifications came from their own efforts (Westlander 1991).
The WHO (World Health Organization) introduced in 1980 a classification of functional limitation in people; the ICIDH (International Classification Impairment, Disability and Handicap). In this classification a difference is made between illness, limitations and handicap.
This reference model was created to facilitate international communication. The model was presented on the one hand to offer a reference framework for policy makers and on the other hand, to offer a reference framework for doctors diagnosing people suffering from the consequences of illness.
Why this reference framework? It arose with the aim of trying to improve and increase the participation of people with long-term limited abilities. Two aims are mentioned:
As of January 1st, 1994 the classification is official. The activities that have followed, are widespread and especially concerned with issues such as: information and educational measures for specific groups; regulations for the protection of workers; or, for instance, demands that companies should employ, for example, at least 5 per cent of workers with a disability. The classification itself leads in the long term to integration and non-discrimination.
Illness strikes each of us. Certain illnesses can be prevented, others not. Certain illnesses can be cured, others not. Where possible illness should be prevented and if possible cured.
Impairment means every absence or abnormality of a psychological, physiological or anatomic structure or function.
Being born with three fingers instead of five does not have to lead to disability. The capabilities of the individual, and the degree of manipulation possible with the three fingers, will determine whether or not the person is disabled. When, however, a fair amount of signal processing is not possible on a central level in the brain, then impairment will certainly lead to disability as at present there is no method to “cure” (solve) this problem for the patient.
Disability describes the functional level of an individual having difficulty in task performance e.g., difficulty standing up from their chair. These difficulties are of course related to the impairment, but also to the circumstances surrounding it. A person who uses a wheelchair and lives in a flat country like the Netherlands has more possibilities for self-transportation than the same person living in a mountainous area like Tibet.
When the problems are placed on a handicap level, it can be determined in which field the main problems are effective e.g., immobility or physical dependency. These can affect work performance; for example the person may not be able to get themselves to work; or, once at work, might need assistance in personal hygiene, etc.
A handicap shows the negative consequences of disability and can only be solved by taking the negative consequences away.
Summary and conclusions
The above-mentioned classification and the policies thereof offer a well defined international workable framework. Any discussion on designing for specific groups will need such a framework in order to define our activities and try to implement these thoughts in design.
Addresses of the ISSA International Sections
ISSA International Section for Research
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Institut National de Recherche et de Securite (INRS)
30 rue Olivier Noyer, F-75680 Paris Cedex 14
Tel. +33-1 40 44 30 00; Fax +33-1 40 44 30 99
ISSA International Section on Information
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Association nationale pour la prevention des accidents du travail (ANPAT)
88 rue Gachard, Boоte 4, B-1050 Bruxelles
Tel. +32-2 648 03 37; Fax +32-2 648 68 67
ISSA International Section for the Mining Industry
Secretariat of the Section:
Vedeckovyzkumny Uhelny Ustav
(Scientific Research Institute for Coal Mining)
Pikartska ul. 7
CS-716 07 Ostrava Radvanice
Tel. +42-69 623 20 48; Fax +42-69 623 21 76
ISSA International Section for the Chemical Industry
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Berufsgenossenschaft der chemischen Industrie
Tel. +49-6221 52 34 98; Fax +49-6221 52 33 23
ISSA International Section for the Iron and Metal Industry
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Allgemeine Unfallversicherungsanstalt
Adalbert-Stifter-StraЯe 65, A-1200 Wien
Tel. +43-1 33 111 558; Fax +43-1 33 111 469
ISSA International Section for Electricity
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Berufsgenossenschaft der Feinmechanik und Elektrotechnik
Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer 130, D-50968 Koln
Tel. +49-221 37 78 1; Fax +49-221 37 78 134
ISSA International Section for the Construction Industry
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Organisme professionnel de prevention du bвtiment et des travaux publics (OPPBTP)
Tour Amboise, 204 Rond-Point du Pont-de-Sevres
Tel. +33-1 46 09 26 54; Fax +33-1 46 09 27 40
ISSA International Section for Agriculture
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Bundesverband der landwirtschaftlichen
Tel. +49-561 93 59 401; Fax +49-561 93 59 414
ISSA International Section for Machine Safety
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrungsmittel und Gaststatten
Tel. +49-621 44 56 22 13; Fax +49-621 44 56 21 25
ISSA International Section for Education and Training
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Caisse rйgionale d’assurance maladie
17-19 place de l’Argonne
Tel. +33-1 40 05 38 02; Fax +33-1 40 05 38 84
ISSA International Section for Health Services
Secretariat of the Section:
c/o Berufsgenossenschaft fur Gesundheitsdienst und Wohlfahrtspflege
Tel. +49-40 20 20 70; Fax +49-40 20 20 75 25
150, cours Albert Thomas,
F-69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France
Tel.: +33-7 273 84 85
Fax: +33-7 273 85 75
Headquarters: 20 avenue Appia,
1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
Tel.: +41-22-791 21 11
Fax: +41-22-791 07 46
Telex: 845 415 416
Cable: UNISANTE GENEVE
150, cours Albert Thomas,
F-69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France
Tel.: +33-7 273 84 85
Fax: +33-7 273 85 75
P.O. Box 30552,
Tel.: 2-23 08 00
Fax:2-22 68 31
Telex: 22068 KNEPKE
Cable: UNITERRA NAIROBI
Vienna International Centre,
P.O. Box 100,
A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Tel.: +43-1-23 60
Fax: +43-1-23 45 64
Telex: 112645 ATOM A
Cable: INATOM VIENNA
1 United Nations Plaza,
Tel.: +1-212-906 5000
Fax: +1-212-906 5778
Viale delle Terme de Caracalla,
1-00100 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39-6-522 51
Fax: +39-6-522 53 152
Telex: 610181 FAO 1
Cable: FOODAGRI ROME
4 Albert Embankment,
London SE1 7SR,
Tel.: +44-171-735 7611
Fax: +44-171-587 3210
Palais des Nations,
Tel.: +41-22-907 12 34
Fax: +41-22-907 0 57
Cable: UNATIONS GENEVE
Excerpted from Vogel 1994
Danish industrial relations provide an example of a country with a number of institutions that play a role in relation to health and safety. The main features are:
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Negotiation of agreements by which trade unions and employers fix wages, conditions of work, etc. Pertinent highlights are:
Shop stewards who are elected by workers under collective bargaining agreements; enjoy statutory protection against dismissal; serve as channel between workers and management on working conditions.
Collective Agreement on Cooperation and Cooperation Committees provides for information to be given to individuals and groups of workers in advance so they can make their views known before a decision is taken and for the establishment of cooperation committees.
Cooperation committees must be set up in all firms employing more than 35 workers (25 in the public service). Joint committees to promote cooperation in day-to-day operations; they must be consulted on the introduction of new technologies and the organization of production; some co-determination rights on working conditions, training and personal data.
National collective agreement on industrial disputes (of 1910) gives workers a right (rarely exercised) to stop work if considerations of “life, welfare or honour” make this absolutely necessary. Other collective agreements contain provisions on training and trade unions also provide it.
FRAMEWORK LAW: The Working Environment Act creates “the basis on which the undertakings themselves will be able to solve questions relating to safety and health under the guidance of the employers’ and workers’ organizations and under the guidance and supervision of the Labour Inspection Service” (Sec. 1(b)). The Act establishes a complete system from the plant to the national level to permit worker participation:
Safety representatives are elected representatives required in firms employing at least ten workers; they enjoy the same protection against dismissal and retaliation as shop stewards and are entitled to reimbursement of official expenses.
Safety groups: The safety representative and the department supervisor form the safety group. Its functions are to:
Members of the safety group are entitled to training and to necessary information.
Safety Committees are required in firms employing at least 20 workers. In firms with more than two safety groups, the safety committees consist of workers elected from among safety representatives, two supervisor members and an employer’s representative.
The functions are:
WORKING ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL involves employers’ and workers’ organizations in the definition and application of preventive policy at the national level. Composition: 11 representatives of employee organizations representing manual and non-manual workers, one for supervisors, ten of employers’ organizations, plus an occupational medical practitioner, a technical expert and non-voting governmental representatives. Functions:
WORKING ENVIRONMENT FUND is managed by a tripartite board. The Fund has mainly information and training duties, but also finances research programmes.
TRADE SAFETY COUNCILS: Twelve Trade Safety Councils examine the problems of their trade or industry and advise undertakings. They are also consulted on draft legislation. Equal representation of employers’ and supervisors’ organizations on the one hand and workers’ organizations on the other hand.
GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES: In addition, the Ministry of Labour, the Labour Inspection Service and within it, the Danish Institute of the Working Environment, provide various types of services and advice in the field of occupational safety and health. Collective industrial disputes are heard by the Labour Courts.
The agreement between Bethlehem Steel and the United Steelworkers of America is typical of company-wide agreements in large unionized manufacturing enterprises in the United States. Steel industry labour agreements have contained safety and health articles for more than 50 years. Many provisions negotiated in the past gave workers and the union rights that were later guaranteed by law. Despite this redundancy, the provisions still appear in the contract as a hedge against changes in the law, and to allow the union the option of taking violations to impartial arbitration rather than the courts.
The Bethlehem agreement runs from 1 August 1993 to 1 August 1999. It covers 17,000 workers in six plants. The full agreement is 275 pages long; 17 pages are devoted to safety and health.
Section 1 of the safety and health article pledges the company and the union to cooperate in the objective of eliminating accidents and health hazards. It obligates the company to provide safe and healthful workplaces, obey federal and state law, provide employees with the necessary protective equipment free of charge, provide chemical safety information to the union and inform workers of the hazards and controls for toxic substances. It grants the union’s central safety and health department the right to any information in the company’s possession that is “relevant and material” to an understanding of potential hazards. It requires the company to make air sampling tests and environmental investigations at the request of the union co-chairperson of the plant’s safety and health committee.
Section 2 sets up joint union-management safety and health committees at the plant and national levels, prescribes the rules under which they operate, mandates training for committee members, gives members of the committee access to all parts of the plant to facilitate the committee’s work and specifies the applicable rates of pay for committee members on committee business. The section also specifies how disputes over protective equipment are to be resolved, requires the company to notify the union of all potentially disabling accidents, sets up a system of joint accident investigation, requires the company to gather and supply to the union certain safety and health statistics, and establishes an extensive safety and health training programme for all employees.
Section 3 gives workers the right to remove themselves from work involving hazards beyond those “inherent in the operation” and provides an arbitration mechanism through which disputes over such work refusals can be resolved. Under this provision, a worker cannot be disciplined for acting in good faith and on the basis of objective evidence, even if a subsequent investigation shows that the hazard did not in fact exist.
Section 4 specifies that the committee’s role is advisory, and that committee members and officers of the union acting in their official capacity are not to be held liable for injuries or illnesses.
Section 5 states that alcoholism and drug abuse are treatable conditions, and sets up a programme of rehabilitation.
Section 6 establishes an extensive programme for controlling carbon monoxide, a serious hazard in primary steel production.
Section 7 provides workers with vouchers for the purchase of safety shoes.
Section 8 requires the company to keep individual medical records confidential except in certain limited circumstances. However, workers have access to their own medical records, and may release them to the union or to a personal physician. In addition, physicians for the company are required to notify workers of adverse medical findings.
Section 9 establishes a medical surveillance programme.
Section 10 establishes a programme for investigating and controlling the hazards of video display terminals.
Section 11 establishes full-time safety representatives in each plant, chosen by the union but paid by the company.
In addition, an appendix to the agreement commits the company and the union to review each plant’s safety programme for mobile equipment operating on rails. (Fixed rail equipment is the leading cause of death by traumatic injury in the American steel industry.)
The World Trade Organization (WTO), established in 1995 as the result of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the international trade agreement dating from the late 1940s. The WTO is the legal and institutional foundation of the world’s multilateral trading system. It aims to promote open international trade, not only in goods (as in GATT), but also in services and intellectual property. The WTO also has an explicit goal of advancing development, especially of the least developed countries.
The WTO is designed to promote trade, and related issues such as occupational safety and health are addressed only insofar as they may interfere with free trade. Two Agreements are relevant. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures addresses food safety and animal and plant health regulations. It permits countries to promulgate such regulations, but requires that they be based on science, applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, and should not arbitrarily discriminate between member countries. While member countries are encouraged to base their regulations on international standards, they are permitted to set more stringent standards if there is scientific justification or if they have based their standards on an appropriate risk assessment. The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade reinforces these precepts. Its goal is to prevent technical regulations and standards from posing unnecessary obstacles to trade. To this end, there is a code of good practice for promulgating standards and a requirement that standards be applied equitably to domestic and imported products.
While the foregoing two Agreements pertain principally to environmental, food quality, and pharmaceutical regulations, they could conceivably be applied to occupational health and safety. The summary statement from the 1995 Marrakesh meeting of the WTO provided for the formation of a working party on International Labour Standards. However, the WTO has thus far avoided addressing occupational health and safety, and several member governments, especially those of developing countries, have held that worker health should remain a national prerogative, uncoupled from international trade considerations. Therefore, the WTO has to date played no role in advancing occupational health and safety.
Economic integration in Europe is distinguished by its early origins, dating to the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and by the prominence that social and political issues have assumed alongside economic considerations. In fact, integration in Europe extends well beyond lowering trade barriers; it also includes the free movement of workers (and soon of people in general), the promulgation of binding transnational laws and regulations, and the creation of a transnational bureaucracy with substantial financial backing. As a result, occupational health has received considerable attention.
The European Economic Community (EEC), or Common Market, was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This Treaty began to lift trade barriers among member nations, and established the EEC’s organizational structure. The Commission of the European Communities became the EEC’s civil service and bureaucracy, with its work carried out by 23 Directorates General (including one, DG V, responsible for employment, industrial relations and social affairs). The Council of Ministers handles major policy-making, while the European Parliament has a co-decision-making role.
The Court of Justice adjudicates disputes that arise under treaties. The Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work (ACSH), established by the Council in 1974 to advise the Commission, includes representatives of labour, management, and the governments from each member country, and is supported by staff from the Health and Safety Directorate of the DG V. The ACSH reviews legislative proposals relevant to occupational health, initiates activities on specific hazards, and coordinates joint efforts. The Economic and Social Committee has a consultative role.
In 1978 the Commission introduced the first Action Programme on Health and Safety, with considerable support from the ACSH. It focused on hazardous substances, prevention of machinery hazards, monitoring and inspections and the improvement of attitudes towards health and safety. Since then, successive action programmes have been directed at other occupational health concerns such as ergonomics, occupational health statistics, assistance for small enterprises and training. These have promoted occupational health solutions throughout the member nations, providing training, technical advice and written materials. For example, in 1982 the Commission convened an informal group of senior labour inspectors to encourage personnel and information exchanges among the 12 nations, comparison of member countries’ practices and improved practice. Such initiatives exemplify how the integration of national economies can have positive effects on the practice of occupational health and safety.
The Single European Act (SEA) of 1987 signalled a major step forward in European integration and in the development of the European Free Trade Area. A firm date was set for the establishment of a Single Market, 1992, and activity in a range of social issues, including occupational health, was stimulated. Unanimity among member nations was no longer needed to set policy; instead, a “qualified majority” could do so. Two of the Act’s articles are especially relevant to occupational health. Article 100(a) aims to harmonize product standards in the member countries, a process that has important safety implications. This Article specifies that standards should achieve a “high level of health protection”. Article 118(a) directly addresses occupational health and safety, holding that member countries “shall pay particular attention to encouraging improvements, especially in the working environments, as regards the health and safety of workers, and shall set as their objective the harmonization of conditions in this area while maintaining the improvements made”.
In 1989, two important events further solidified the role of occupational health in the process of European integration. The Social Charter was adopted by 11 of the then 12 Member States, including a clause that emphasized “the need for training, information, consultation and balanced participation of workers as regards the risks incurred and the steps taken to eliminate or reduce them”.
Also in 1989, the Framework Directive was adopted by the Council, the first major policy initiative under the SEA. It defined the EC (now the European Union (EU)) approach to worker health and safety, extending to public and private employees in all member countries. Employers were assigned a general “duty to ensure the safety and heath of workers in every aspect related to work”, and specific duties to:
The Framework Directive adopted a broad view of what workplace factors were relevant to occupational health, including design issues, monotonous work and piece-work. It called for active worker participation in health and safety programmes, including rights to advance consultation with employers on health and safety initiatives, paid time off to perform health and safety functions, meetings with government inspectors and refusal to work in case of “serious, imminent and unavoidable danger” (subject to national laws). A series of so-called daughter directives issued in the wake of the Framework Directive address the use of personal protective equipment, manual handling of loads, work with video display terminals and other issues.
Will the Framework Directive translate into effective national policy? Underlying this issue is the EU’s explicit commitment to the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that all policy should be implemented by member countries rather than by the EU, unless “by reason of the scale of effects of the proposed action” it is better carried out centrally. This will result in tension between the mandates of the central directives and the sovereign actions of the member countries.
Each member country is required to transpose the Framework Directive (like all directives) into national law, to implement policies accordingly and to enforce them in practice. This process leaves countries room for discretion and may allow some non-compliance. By all accounts the EU is not well equipped to monitor member country compliance with its occupational health and safety directives. Closer monitoring of each country’s practices, and the political will to use available remedies in cases of non-compliance (including appeal to the Court of Justice) will be necessary if the EU’s full potential in promoting occupational health is to be realized.
A related question concerns the fate of national policies that are more protective than those of the EU. Since Article 118(a) requires only a minimum common level of workplace protection, there may be a tendency towards downward harmonization in response to economic pressures.
In 1994 the Council, acting on a three-year-old proposal from the Commission, established the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, sited in Bilbao, Spain. The Agency’s aim is to “provide the Community bodies, the Member States and those involved in the field with the technical, scientific and economic information of use in the field of safety and health at work”. It will focus on technical and scientific consultation to the Commission, information exchange, training, consistent data collection and promoting research.
In 1995 the Commission published its action programme for the period 1996-2000. One important component was continued attention to legislative initiatives—ensuring that Community directives be accurately transported into national law, and promulgating new directives on physical agents, chemical agents, transport, and work equipment. A longstanding Committee of Senior Labour Inspectors was formalized to harmonize methods of workplace inspection and to monitor the implementation of national labour laws. However, there was also considerable emphasis on non-legislative measures, principally information and persuasion. A new initiative, SAFE (Safety Actions for Europe) was announced, to address health and safety problems in small and medium-sized firms. The approach planned was to identify successful initiatives in model firms and to use these as examples for other firms.
In summary, European economic integration and free trade have evolved as part of a broader programme of social and political integration. This process has included serious discussions of social issues, including occupational health and safety. A complicated bureaucracy has several components that bear on workplace health and safety. The reference point for the EU is community law rather than national law, in contrast to every other free-trade agreement. This arrangement is the world’s most advanced example of promoting occupational health and safety as a component of free trade. It will affect more than the EU countries; occupational health and safety considerations will be part of every association, partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, extending this progressive tradition. The problems that persist—reconciling national sovereignty with coordinated progress, monitoring compliance with Community directives, reconciling differences between more and less progressive countries and sharing scarce technical expertise and resources—will continue to pose challenges to European integration in coming years.
The three nations of North America have been major trading partners for many decades. The first step towards a regional trading agreement was the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement of 1987, which lowered tariffs and other trading restrictions between those two countries. In the early 1990s, in preparation for a continent-wide trade agreement, US and Mexican labour authorities began several cooperative efforts, such as the training of labour inspectors. In 1993 Mexico, Canada and the US ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994 for full implementation over about a decade. NAFTA was designed to abolish most trade restrictions among the three countries.
The process that led to NAFTA differed from the European experience in several ways. NAFTA had a shorter history and was negotiated rapidly. There was no tradition of incorporating social issues into the process. Environmental and labour concerns were ultimately codified in a pair of side agreements that were adopted alongside the NAFTA proper. Environmental groups had been active in the debate leading to NAFTA and won a number of environmental safeguards in the environmental side agreement, but labour groups took a different approach. Unions and their allies, especially in the US and Canada, vigorously opposed NAFTA and campaigned more to block the treaty altogether than for specific labour-friendly provisions. Moreover, there was reluctance among the three governments to relinquish any sovereignty regarding their respective labour laws. As a result NAFTA’s labour side agreement is relatively narrow compared to the environmental side agreement or to the European experience.
The labour side agreement, in an Annex, defines “guiding principles that the Parties are committed to promote, subject to each Party’s domestic law, but do not establish common minimum standards”. These principles include prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses, compensation in cases of occupational injuries and illnesses, protection of migrant workers and children, more traditional labour rights such as freedom of association, the rights to organize, bargain collectively and strike, and prohibition of forced labour. The stated objectives of the side agreement are to improve working conditions, encourage information exchange, data collection and collaborative studies and promote compliance with each country’s labour laws.
The early Articles of the labour side agreement urge each country to publicize its own labour laws internally and to enforce them fairly, equitably and transparently. Next, a Commission for Labour Cooperation is formed. It consists of a Council of the three labour ministers or their designees, which is responsible for policy-making and promoting cooperative activities, and a Secretariat headed by an Executive Director that will prepare background reports and studies and otherwise support the Council. Moreover, each nation is directed to establish a National Administrative Office which will serve as its liaison to the Commission and assist the Commission in its work. Several general procedures are set forth, such as a direction to seek expertise through cooperation with the ILO. However, the agreement defines few specific procedures in support of its objectives.
Much of the concern that drove the side agreement was that a member nation, usually presumed to be Mexico, might, through lax labour practices, gain an unfair trade advantage; this would expose Mexican workers to low wages and unwholesome working conditions and would transfer jobs away from US and Canadian workers. Hence, a large part of the side agreement is dedicated to procedures for handling complaints and grievances. If such a concern arises, the first step is supposed to be consultation between the governments involved at the ministerial level. Next, the Commission may form an Expert Committee of Evaluation (ECE), usually three qualified people “chosen strictly on the basis of objectivity, reliability and sound judgement”, to consider the matter, provided that the matter is trade related and is “covered by mutually recognized labour laws”. The ECE may rely on information provided by the Commission, each member nation, organizations or individuals with relevant expertise, or the public. The ECE report is provided to each member nation.
If the ECE concludes that one country may have failed to enforce its labour standards then a formal dispute resolution process may be triggered. Significantly, this process is available only if the dispute pertains to occupational health and safety, child labour or minimum wages. First, the involved nations attempt to negotiate a settlement. If they cannot agree, an arbitral panel is convened from a roster of experts established and maintained by the Council. The panel presents its findings of fact, its conclusion regarding whether a nation has failed to enforce its standards, and its recommendations for corrective action. If the involved nation does not comply with its recommendations, the panel may be reconvened and may impose fines. If a nation refuses to pay its fine, the ultimate penalty is a suspension of NAFTA benefits, usually through tariff imposition in the sector where the violation occurred, in order to recover the amount of the fine.
Overall, the labour side agreement, as a framework for occupational health and safety under NAFTA, is less extensive than corresponding European arrangements. The focus in NAFTA is on dispute resolution rather than on joint research, information sharing, training, technology development and related initiatives. The dispute resolution process, in the view of labour advocates, is cumbersome, time-consuming and relatively toothless. More importantly, the side agreement expresses no shared commitment to fundamental labour rights. It is assiduous in respecting each nation’s labour laws, and has no provisions for upgrading or harmonizing those that are deficient. Its scope is narrow, and although there has been little experience to date, it is likely that the broad European approach to occupational health, extending to such concerns as shiftwork and stress, will not be replicated.
Asia and Latin America
Although Asia is the world’s fastest growing economic region, free-trade negotiations in the region have not advanced significantly. Neither the ASEAN nor the APEC has addressed occupational health and safety in its trade negotiations. Similarly, the growing trading pacts of Latin America, such as MERCOSUR and the Andean Pact, have included no occupational health and safety initiatives.
These canons provide standards of ethical conduct for industrial hygienists as they practice their profession and exercise their primary mission, to protect the health and well-being of working people and the public from chemical, microbiological and physical health hazards present at, or emanating from, the workplace.
CANONS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT
Industrial Hygienists shall:
Practice their profession following recognized scientific principles with the realization that the lives, health and well-being of people may depend upon their professional judgement and that they are obligated to protect the health and well-being of people.
Counsel affected parties factually regarding potential health risks and precautions necessary to avoid adverse health effects.
Keep confidential personal and business information obtained during the exercise of industrial hygiene activities, except when required by law or overriding health and safety considerations.
Avoid circumstance where a compromise of professional judgment or conflict of interest may arise.
Perform services only in the areas of their competence.
Act responsibly to uphold the integrity of the profession.
Provided by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (1995).
SABRE Employment (UK)Mission Statement:
To communicate overall objectives/business goals which not only embrace the provision of quality service to applicants, but clearly reflect the desire to provide an efficient recruitment service to employers and which assist employers to improve their capacity to employ people with disabilities. Emphasis should be placed on the primary aim to achieve customer satisfaction. “All of Sabre’s activities begin with our customers. Our goals are to provide recruitment solutions through effective job matching, reliable training and support and to offer expertise in the recruitment and employment of people with disabilities.”
A job fair was recently held to give people a chance to meet employers and learn about different jobs. McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd. ran a workshop on interview skills and also sponsored the job fair event along with Shell and Pizza Hut. There were employer displays which provided an opportunity for employers and prospective employees with learning difficulties to meet in an informal way.
The Coverdale Bursary Programme (UK)
For five years, Coverdale, a small (70 people) management consultancy has offered bursaries to the value of £10,000 per person to disabled individuals seeking high quality management training. These individuals then go into companies like Barclays Bank, the Post Office and Midland Bank for additional training, in a process which promotes long-term attitude change across participating companies. This programme is now being expanded. It has been adapted by The Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work.
Brook Street and FYD (UK)
A commercial recruitment agency, Brook Street, and a charity for young deaf people, Friends for the Young Deaf (FYD), have worked in partnership for some years. Brook Street offers work experience and assessment to the young deaf graduates completing the FYD leadership training programme; Brook Street then places appropriate candidates into jobs, charging the same commercial fee they would charge for any candidate.
Employers’ Forum on Disability (UK)
Companies involved in the Employers’ Forum on Disability, an employer-funded association that promotes the integration of disabled persons in the labour market and provides advisory services for interested enterprises, helped disabled entrepreneur Stephen Duckworth to establish his business, Disability Matters, which now offers high quality consultancy and awareness-raising on disability to companies across the UK. Its philosophy encompasses the following:
Other examples in the UK: The Employer Forum on Disabilities
Leading UK companies drafted a highly influential policy framework called the “Employers Agenda on Disability, a Ten Point Plan”. This was launched by the Prime Minister and is now publicly supported by more than 100 major firms. It has proven a powerful force for change because it was drafted by the employers themselves in consultation with disability experts. It is now a key tool in helping employers to comply with discrimination legislation.
Supporters of the Agenda are publicly committed to structuring their corporate policy on disability using a 10-point framework addressing the following issues: Equal Opportunities Policy and Procedures Statement; Staff Training and Disability Awareness; The Working Environment; Recruitment; Career Development; Retention, Retraining and Redeployment; Training and Work Experience; People with Disabilities in the Wider Community; Involvement of Disabled People; Monitoring Performance.
The Action File on Disability, a unique manual which provides practical information on how to implement the Agenda, has been produced by the Employers’ Forum on Disability.
More than 20 companies are involved in a consortium working with “Workable”, which brokers work-experience opportunities to disabled students in a planned and structured manner.
Twenty-five companies jointly fund an initiative making annual Career Fairs for students accessible for disabled students. The Career Fairs are now wheelchair accessible, and interpreters for the deaf are available, as well as large-print brochures and other support. Employers had experienced such difficulty attracting disabled graduates to apply for jobs using traditional intermediaries that they are now pioneering recruitment methods which speak directly to the disabled students.
The project HIRED in San Francisco embodies this new employer orientation. The acronym stands for Helping Industry Recruit Employees with Disabilities. Their literature highlights the services they offer employers:
“Project HIRED is a private, not for profit organization serving the San Francisco Bay area. Our purpose is to assist individuals with disabilities to secure jobs appropriate to their qualifications and career goals. Our services to employers include:
In addition to less formal corporate partnerships, Project HIRED has a corporate membership programme involving approximately 50 Bay Area companies. As corporate members, these companies are entitled to free consulting and a discount on seminars. We are currently exploring additional services, such as library of video resources, to further assist corporate members successfully incorporate people with disabilities in their workforce.”
The origins of ASPHI (Associazione per lo Sviluppo di Progetti Informatici per gli Handicappati) go back to the late 1970s when IBM Italy organized courses in computer programming for the visually impaired. A number of companies which had subsequently employed the trainees, together with specialist partner agencies from the non-profit sector, created ASPHI for the physically disabled and the hearing and mentally impaired. The Association involves more than 40 companies which provide financial support, staff and volunteer helpers, advice as well as employment opportunities for ASPHI’s graduates. ASPHI’s objective is to harness information technologies for the social and vocational integration of disadvantaged groups. Its activities include: job training, research and development of new products (mainly software) which facilitate alternative methods of communication, personal autonomy and rehabilitation, and community education, thus breaking down prejudices and discrimination against disabled people. Each year, some 60 young people are qualified by ASPHI. With about 85% of its graduates finding a permanent job, ASPHI’s success has brought it national and international recognition.
Swedish Employers’ Federation Initiative
The Swedish Employers’ Federation Initiative, “Persons with Disabilities in Companies”, positions disability firmly in the labour market debate in the country and conveys the message that disability is an issue of importance to the Swedish Employers Confederation and its members. The Federation states: “The path to employment for persons with disabilities must be made smoother. Requirements for this include:
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