- Does worker participation improve health and safety? Findings from the Netherlands
- Policy and Practice in Health and Safety
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 1
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Law (FdR)
- Hugo Sinzheimer Instituut (HSI)
Worker participation, both at a sectoral and organisational level, has been assigned a prominent role in Dutch occupational safety and health (OSH) policy since the 1980s. This emphasis on worker participation stems from the belief that such participation may enhance the effectiveness of OSH policy - notably at the organisational level. However, although this belief is fundamental to the philosophy of self-regulation, until recently it has been supported by only scant empirical evidence. This paper assembles recent empirical findings concerning the effect on OSH performance of worker participation in the Netherlands. It has been found that worker participation, particularly through formal consultation via works councils, is only marginally associated with better OSH performance in organisations. Increased worker participation, however, correlates with better quality risk assessments and more preventive measures (especially concerning 'invisible' risks such as psychological strain), but the effect is not strong. Background variables that are associated with the strength of workers' roles in OSH are the degree to which works councils take an 'activist' stance in their dealings with management and, more importantly, the organisation's management style. The conclusion is that OSH is not merely a technical issue (even though it is often treated as such), but to a large extent an industrial one.
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