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The business case for safety and health at

work :
Costbenefit analyses of interventions in small and medium-sized

Safety and health at work is everyones concern. Its good for you. Its good for business.

Why focus on small and medium-sized enterprises?

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europes
They are responsible for 67 % of employment
Unfortunately, their workers are disproportionately likely to suffer as a result of
poor occupational safety and health (OSH)
82 % of occupational injuries and 90 % of workplace fatalities happen in
SMEs face particular challenges when it comes to OSH. An SME is likely to
have more difficulties in resourcing and implementing a safety and health policy
than a larger company

Looking at the business case for OSH

Profit alone is rarely a motive for implementing an OSH initiative
As well as looking after the employees, reputation and compliance with the law
are bigger factors for businesses
SMEs tend to see OSH as a burden on operating costs
However, greater awareness of the link between improved OSH and higher
productivity/cost savings could help to encourage SMEs to take action

The new case studies

For this reason, EU-OSHA worked with partners across Europe to develop 13
new case studies looking at OSH initiatives in SMEs
A business case was put together for each intervention, examining all the costs
and benefits directly attributable to the changes made
This meant that they could be assessed from a purely financial point of view
11 of the 13 interventions studies were profitable by the end of the five-year
period chosen for evaluation

Case study 1: The company and the issue

Statga, in Lithuania, manufactures office furniture
The company employs around 90 people
The workers complained that the ventilation system and respirators in use were
The company investigated and found that the workers faced occupational risks
such as:
inhalation of dust, fumes and metal particles
injury to the face and eyes from metal particles

Case study 1: the intervention

The management and the workers worked together to solve the problem
Research was undertaken and various safety systems were tried out until a
preferred option was found
Individual air cleaning and supply systems with face shields were the solution
that was arrived at

Grinders (left) and painters (right) before and after the

implementation of new system

Case study 1: The results

From a purely economic point of view:
The new equipment saved money on spare parts and accessories
An average annual saving of just over 450 per worker was achieved
The payback period was one year.
Even without taking into account less direct or harder to calculate effects such
as increased motivation and productivity and decreased sick leave, the
initiative was financially beneficial
From an OSH perspective:
The workers felt safer and more comfortable
Morale improved
The intervention was nominated for a national good practice award

Case study 2: The company and the issue

Kwekerij de Lindenborg is a cucumber cultivation company in Breda, the
Netherlands, employing 3 permanent workers and seasonal staff
Picking and processing cucumbers is physically demanding. Before the
intervention, it involved:
lifting and moving heavy containers
adopting awkward postures
performing repetitive movements
With workers getting older and the firm planning to expand, the owner, fearing
an increase in musculoskeletal disorders among his employees, decided to
tackle these issues, which lowered productivity and resulted in high rates of
sickness absence

Case study 2: The intervention

The company worked with a supplier to develop a new system to make the
work easier
Prototypes were tested and the old trolley system, which involved heavy work
and awkward postures, was replaced
The new system eliminated much of the bending and lifting that had previously
been required


Case study 2: The results

From an economic point of view:
Sick leave caused by work-related MSDs was reduced by 20 %
Picking became 15 % more efficient
Sorting became 5 % more efficient
The investment was earned back in a little over four years
Fewer cucumbers were damaged using the new system
The intervention enabled the company to grow sustainably
From an OSH perspective:
The work became less physically demanding
Sustainable employability improved
Employees reported feeling more comfortable during their work


Case study 3: The company and the issue

HAW is a waste disposal company based in Nauen, Germany, with 143
Slip and trip accidents occurred relatively frequently, especially during
mounting and dismounting from vehicles
In 2009, the year before the intervention, there were 30 accidents resulting in
workers reporting sick for between one day and 30 days


Case study 3: The intervention

Discussions of the accidents were introduced during the usual briefings
Photographs were presented during these meetings to illustrate the hazards
The company purchased better boots that provided more stability for workers


Case study 3: The results

The costs of providing the training and new boots amounted to 4,500
The costs to the company of the accidents in 2009 were 48,039.17
They included costs incurred through stoppages, provision of first aid, accident
reporting and analysis and reorganisation of work
In 2010 and the following years, the numbers of accidents went down by 20 %
The costs of the intervention were recovered back in 1.3 years


Conclusions from the new case studies

When all the costs and benefits are taken into account in a business case,
OSH interventions are often shown to be highly profitable
Wide rangings scope interventions, transferable to a broad range of risks,
appear to be more profitable than those tackling a highly specific problem
In general, interventions consisting mostly of training and organisational
change tend to be particularly profitable
Further research on successful, widely applicable interventions would be of