Prerequisites and Possibilities for Manufacturing Companies to Prioritize and Manage Occupational Health and Safety

Sammanfattning: Legislation demands that health and safety of humans at work must be secured. Today, far from every company has a functioning systematic management of occupational health and safety (OHS) in place to fulfill its legal obligations. Instead, other day-to-day tasks appear to have greater priority.The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate prerequisites and possibilities for manufacturing companies to prioritize and manage OHS, with focus on professional roles, company size, safety culture, and financial performance.Four papers (I–IV) are included in this thesis, based on three data collections. A questionnaire measuring the priority accorded to work environment was completed by 249 representatives of 142 manufacturing companies (I & II). Focus group interviews were conducted with 66 workers at a large steel-manufacturing company, discussing their experiences and perceptions of safety and risks at work (III). A questionnaire measuring OHS management practices, safety culture, and priority given to work environment was completed by 280 representatives of 197 manufacturing companies (IV). Information regarding the companies’ financial performance was retrieved from a credit bureau database.The main findings of the four papers demonstrated that profitability was considered as the most prioritized interest in the companies (I), and that trade-offs between productivity and safety is an obstacle to working safely (III). Managers generally perceived their companies to prioritize work environment factors more than the safety delegates did (I & IV). Perceptions of work environment priority did, however, not differ depending on company size (II & IV). Responsibility for safety was perceived to rest on the individual to the largest extent, and risk-taking was believed to originate from a combination of individual factors and external circumstances in the work environment (III). Larger company size, positive safety culture, and low risk in creditworthiness were found to be associated with better OHS management practices in companies (IV). Correspondingly, smaller company size, negative safety culture, and high risk in creditworthiness were found to be associated with worse OHS management practices.In summary, structural, social, and financial aspects seem to be important in companies’ possibilities for prioritizing and managing OHS. Recommendations for industry and future research are discussed.

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