Ireland: EWCO comparative analytical report on information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety in SMEs

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 21 Deireadh Fómhair 2010



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

This CAR contribution examines employee information, consultation and participation arrangements relating to health and safety issues in SMEs in Ireland. The 2005 Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act is the main piece of legislation regulating workplace health and safety. The SHWW Act 2005 sets out rules on safety representatives and employee consultation. In 2006, new regulations on safety representatives and employee consultation were introduced on a sectoral basis in the construction industry.

Questionnaire

1. National settings and regulatory framework (max 400 words)

- How is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs? Any data available? Do administrative reports exist in particular from the Labour Inspectorate?

In Ireland, the 1989 Framework directive on H&S, and provisions for information and consultation, were transposed through the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (SHWW) Act 1989, which was updated through the 2005 SHWW Act. http://www.hsa.ie/eng/Legislation/Acts/Safety_Health_and_Welfare_at_Work/SI_No_10_of_2005.pdf

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) (www.hsa.ie) is the national regulatory body in Ireland with responsibility for securing health and safety at work – including compliance with consultation procedures. The HSA is a state-sponsored body, established under the SHWW Act 1989, and it reports to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Its responsibilities cover every type of workplace and every kind of work in the public and private sectors. This ranges from workplaces where just one or two people are employed, to corporations with multiple locations and thousands of employees. The HSA has its own health and safety inspectorate responsible for inspecting and enforcing H&S legislation. The health and safety inspectorate is distinct and separate from the labour inspectorate in Ireland. The HSA and its inspectorate produce a number of publications/administrative reports, which are available on its website: http://publications.hsa.ie/index.asp?locID=18&docID=-1 However, the reports do not typically specifically distinguish between SMEs and other organisations.

As well as the EU 1989 Framework directive, the Irish H & S legislation also, historically, partly reflects the Irish Barrington Commission report proposals of 1983 (‘Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Safety Health and Welfare at Work), which itself arose from the UK Robens Report of 1974.

The Irish SHWW Act 2005 applies equally to all workplaces in Ireland, including SMEs. Section 26 of the SHWW Act 2005 provides that all employers, including SMEs, have a duty to inform and consult employees about H&S issues. Some distinction on how information and consultation is to be practically implemented is made between SMEs and larger companies in section 26(3) (see below) – where it is noted that consultation arrangements can vary according to company size, with SMEs allowed scope to have more informal and less structured consultative arrangements than larger organisations.

Section 26 sets out the arrangements for this consultation on a range of safety and health issues at the workplace. The HSA has produced guidelines on sections 25 and 26 of the SHWW Act 2005 (‘Safety Representatives and Safety Consultation Guidelines’) http://publications.hsa.ie/index.asp?locID=18&docID=159

The HSA guidelines for section 26 state that consultation must be made in advance and in good time so as to allow employees time to consider, discuss and give an opinion on the matters before managerial decisions are made. The information given under the 2005 Act must be sufficient to allow employees to participate fully and effectively in the consultation process. The difference between providing information and consultation should be noted. Consulting employees involves listening to their views and taking these into account as part of the decision-making process. As employees have a right to make representations to their employer on any safety and health matters, the employer must facilitate this process.

What should safety and health consultation cover? Section 26 (1)(b)

Employers must consult in good time on anything carried out in the workplace which can have a substantial effect on safety and health. Any type of work activity already covered by safety and health law is valid for discussion. Consultation must occur on:

  • any risk-protection and prevention measures;

  • the appointment and duties of staff with safety and health responsibilities;

  • the outcome of risk assessments on workplace hazards;

  • the preparation of the safety statement;

  • safety and health information to be provided to employees;

  • reportable accidents or dangerous occurrences;

  • the engagement of safety and health experts or consultants;

  • the planning and organising of safety and health training;

  • the planning and introduction of new technologies, particularly on the consequences of the choice of work equipment, on working conditions and on the working environment.

What consultation and participation rights do employees have? Sections 26 (2) to (6)

Employees have a right to make representations to and consult their employer on matters relating to their safety, health and welfare at work. If a safety committee is set up under Section 26 (3), employees can become members of that committee.

As far as reasonably practicable, the employer must take any action following such representations as he or she considers necessary or appropriate. For example, if it is not practicable to put suggestions made into effect, or if there are more appropriate ways of ensuring safety and health, the employer should explain the reasons why.

Employees who are involved in the safety-consultation arrangements – for example, safety-committee members – are entitled to time off, without loss of pay, to discharge their functions adequately (Section 26 (5)(b)).

Where there are joint decision-making arrangements in the workplace, safety consultation must form part of these arrangements.

Training for safety committee members Section 26 (5)(a)

Employees involved in the safety consultation arrangements (e.g. safety-committee members) are also entitled to time off for training, without loss of earnings, so that they can acquire the knowledge to discharge their functions.

How can effective consultation and participation take place? Section 26 (3)

The 2005 Act states that where a safety committee in a workplace has been agreed to by the employer, represents the employer and the employees, and is used for consultation, it can also be used for the purposes of consultation under the 2005 Act. Whatever consultation procedures are used, they should be agreed between the employer and employees.

According to the 2005 Act, the most appropriate type of consultation method is best chosen at local level – at the level of the workplace or company. Consultation arrangements are likely to vary with the size and nature of the undertaking. The Act notes that In a comparatively small company, informal staff meetings should be sufficient; in a larger enterprise, a more structured approach is probably required.

When the safety committee procedure is used it may be done in compliance with Schedule 4 to the 2005 Act. The Act states that other voluntarist arrangements for safety consultation that have been agreed between employer and employees may also be used. Whatever method is used, it is important that consultation and employee participation arrangements include balanced participation by both employees and employers.

- Does its implementation in micro and small companies follow similar patterns than in medium ones?

Yes. There is no particular/specific mention to SMEs, but all workplaces are covered equally under the Irish legislation.

- Is H&S the current focus of legislation or did it evolve by incorporating “well-being at work” as the basic concept?

Given that Ireland was governed for a long period by Britain until it secured independence in the early 1920’s, there is a long history of evolving legislation in relation to improving working conditions and well-being at work – for instance, the 1802 Health and Morals of Apprentices Act and the other numerous Factories Acts in the Victorian era. In short, there is a very long history of legislation on improving working conditions.

- The Community strategy health and safety at work for 2007-2012 calls upon the member states to work out and implement strategies to reduce the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases; are the SMEs specially singled out in the national strategies and cooperation between social partners underlined / foreseen / called for?

The HSA produces strategies for reducing the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases in line with Community health and safety at work strategies. The main sources of information from the HSA in this area are its annual reports and summary of workplace injury, illness and fatality statistics. The HSA/social partner strategies in this area do not typically single out SMEs specifically. The HSA summary of workplace injury, illness and fatality statistics 2007-2008 provide some data distinguishing SMEs from larger organisations, finding that ‘larger organizations accounted for the bulk of incident reports in 2008, with almost 70% coming from organizations with 50 employees’.

The HSA annual report 2008 suggests that the Authority started a fundamental review of its strategy, taking account of the changing nature of work and employment and of the increasing importance of occupational health issues as causes of illness and absence. The aim of the Authority is to make workplace safety, health and welfare an integral part of doing business in every Irish workplace. The Authority says its strong legislative programme is fundamental to this objective. To ensure compliance with the legislation, the Authority primarily seeks to reduce workplace accidents by providing guidance and support to employers and employees. Where the preventive approach fails, the Authority takes legal action to protect workers and enforce worker and safety and health standards.

In its 2008 annual report, the HSA outlined a three year strategy with the following goals:

  • Raise the level of general awareness of occupational safety, health and welfare in the workplace among employers, employees and society in general;

  • Target the workers and managers of the future by fostering a culture of safety through early and continued interventions in the education and training systems;

  • Make relevant, specific information and guidance easily available to those who manage and promote workplace safety in all sectors and assist them to achieve their targets;

  • Enforce occupational safety, health and welfare legislation through targeted and prioritised inspections and through legal action where necessary;

  • Develop a research programme on current, emerging and future high risk areas in workplace safety, health and welfare which will inform all our actions;

  • Ensure that the Authority, its staff, resources and facilities deliver on our corporate goals in line with best practice and value for money.

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2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives (max 700 words)

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards, is it legally binding to establish an H&S Committee in the companies? What’s its role and function?

The legal position pertaining to the standing and role and function of H&S Committees and safety representatives in Ireland are primarily contained in section 25 and 26 of the SHWW Act 2005.

Under section 25 and 26 of the Act, employees themselves are entitled to select a safety representative to represent them on safety and health matters in consultations with their employer. But this does not mean there is a legally binding duty on all employers to establish a H&S Committee or appoint safety representatives. In the absence of a collective representative H&S arrangement, consultation may take place on a direct/individual basis. The major exception, however, is in relation to the construction industry, where The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 (SI 504/06) make it a legally binding obligation for project supervisors for construction sites to facilitate the election of a site safety representative where 20 or more persons are likely to be working on the site. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2006 revised and updated the original 2001 (Construction) regulations.

The HSA guidelines outlined in 1 above in relation to consultation, also describe the role and function of H&S Committees and safety representatives in some detail. Under section 26 of the SHWW Act 2005, the HSA guidelines on the role and function of H&S Committees are as follows:

Role and function of H&S Committee

1. The composition and number of representatives on the safety committee may comply with those set out in Schedule 4, but will also depend on the range and type of work activities and the nature and the range of hazards and risks. Influential senior managers should also be involved, as set out in Schedule 4, in order to emphasise the organisation’s commitment to employee participation in the safety and health effort.

2. The committee must keep in mind the key role the safety representative plays in the consultation and employee-participation process. At least one safety representative must be a member. It is necessary to respect the functions of all the safety representatives who continue to be the main representatives of all employees in discussions on safety and health with the employer.

3. The officers (chairperson and secretary) should be able to ensure that the committee functions effectively. Business should be conducted in an ordered and structured fashion. Minutes, reports and submissions should be precise and clear to help decision-making and to enhance the likelihood of having recommendations considered and acted upon more speedily. The officership could be held by either side or rotated.

4. There should be regular meetings, using the timescales set out in Schedule 4 as a guideline, under a specific agenda which could include items such as the following:

  • any representations made to the employer on any matters relating to safety, health and welfare;

  • the review of safety and health audit reports (including feedback from an inspector);

  • seeking solutions to safety and health issues which arise;

  • the study of information relating to accidents, dangerous occurrences and instances of occupational ill-health at the place of work;

  • developing and implementing safe systems of work;

  • reviewing communication and employee-training procedures relating to safety and health;

  • considering reports presented by a safety representative;

  • a progress report on implementing risk assessments and the safety statement;

  • the provision and use of protective clothing and equipment;

  • special promotional activities on safety and health at work including general fitness and wellbeing programmes, stress reduction or ‘work-positive’ initiatives;

  • safety and health training needs and reports on safety training courses attended by management or employees;

Function and role of safety representatives

In relation to the role and function of safety representatives, section 25 of the SHWW Act 2005 stipulates the following:

Appointment Section 25 (1)

Section 25, without prejudice to Section 26, entitles employees to decide on, select and appoint a safety representative or, by agreement with their employer, more than one safety representative to represent them in consultations with the employer on matters of safety, health and welfare at the place of work. A safety representative does not have any duties, as opposed to functions, under the 2005 Act other than those that apply to employees generally. Therefore, a safety representative who accepts a management proposal to deal with a safety or health issue could not be held legally accountable for putting the proposal into effect.

Detailed arrangements are left to the employees in the individual organisation, where particular circumstances can be taken into account. To select a safety representative, employees may use the accepted process for selecting employee representatives within their organisation or they may choose to ballot all employees. If a selection process does not already exist, one will have to be devised. The safety representative chosen must be available to represent all employees. As a general rule, safety representatives should have been employed for about two years, either by their present employer or in similar employment. They should understand the role intended for them under the 2005 Act.

Overall function Sections 25 (2)(a) and 25 (4)

A safety representative may consult with, and make representations to, the employer on safety, health and welfare matters relating to the employees in the place of work. The employer must consider these representations, and act on them if necessary. The intention of these consultations is to prevent accidents and ill-health, highlight problems, and identify means of overcoming them. Consultations are particularly important when changes are taking place, for example when a safety statement or safety and health plan is being drawn up, or new technology or work processes, including new substances, are being introduced. They also have a part to play in dealing with long-established work practices and hazards.

Carrying out inspections Section 25 (2)(a)

Safety representatives, after giving reasonable notice to the employer, have the right to inspect the whole or part of a workplace that they represent at a frequency or on a schedule agreed between them and the employer, based on the nature and extent of the hazards. A safety representative also has the right to inspect immediately where an accident or dangerous occurrence has taken place, or where there is an imminent danger or risk to the safety, health and welfare of any person.

Investigations Sections 25 (2)(b)

A safety representative may investigate accidents and dangerous occurrences in the place of work to find out the causes and help identify any remedial or preventive measures necessary. However, a safety representative must not interfere with anything at the scene of an accident. Nor can the safety representative obstruct any person with statutory obligations, including a Health and Safety Authority inspector, from doing anything required of them under occupational safety and health legislation.

What kind of information must the employer give to a safety representative? Section 8, Section 9 (1) to (3)

Under Section 8 of the 2005 Act, an employer has the duty to provide ‘information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health, and welfare at work of his or her employees’ (including safety representatives). Section 9 (1) further specifies the type of information that must be supplied to all employees. In addition, Section 9 (3) provides that safety representatives must have access to information on:

  • risk assessments prepared under Section 19 of the 2005 Act;

  • information on reportable accidents, occupational illnesses and dangerous occurrences;

  • any information resulting from the experience of applying protective and preventive measures required under safety and health legislation.

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards are risk prevention representatives elected? Are they distinct representatives from H&S Committee and work councils?

The concept of risk prevention representatives is not applicable in the Irish context. The appropriate title is health and safety representative. The legal obligation is on employers to ensure a healthy and safe work environment – not employees. If employees were to take on responsibility for workplace risk prevention, some H&S experts have observed that employees could potentially expose themselves to legal liability.

- Does the H&S Committee deal with individual health related complaints? Does it have the right to initiate action?

Yes, H&S Committees can deal with individual health-related complaints. The H&S Committee cannot initiate direct action against an employer, but, if management fail to deal with an issue, H&S representatives can lodge a complaint with the Health and Safety Authority and request an investigation.

- Do regional/territorial risk prevention representatives exist, covering several small SME’s?

Not applicable as above.

- Is there special H&S training foreseen for OSH representatives/committees? Is it adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs?

Yes. There are numerous special H&S training courses available for H&S representatives run by employer representative associations, trade unions, and private commercial organisations. Under section 25(5) of the SHWW Act 2005, H&S representatives are entitled to reasonable paid time off for such training, so that they can acquire knowledge to discharge their functions, with no loss of remuneration. Training for safety representatives is deemed to be adequate.

- In order to carry out prevention policies, does a right exist for the H&S Committee to carry out surveys, call in outside independent experts? Who finances the costs of the operations / expertise? Does this right exist also in SMEs?

Yes. As noted above, H&S Committees/safety representatives are entitled to conduct their own internal workplace investigations/inspection, request information/data from employers. The employer finances the costs of such internal measures. Further, H&S Committees can lodge a complaint with the HSA which, where appropriate, may initiate an investigation by outside health and safety inspectors from the HSA.

- Does the H&S Committee have the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate?

Any safety representative or employee has a right to contact the HSA and its H&S inspectorate.

- Does regular reporting, annual reports exist which describe enterprises occupational diseases, assess the occupational risks at the workplace and present prevention policies? Are they submitted to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication?

There is no legal obligation here. In some well-resourced larger organisations, management often holds H&S meetings where it briefs H&S Committees on important developments. In reality, however, this practice would seem to be relatively rare in Ireland.

- Is the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety seen as a positive competition factor? Can the image of the companies be regarded as important in the context for winning major contracts? Do companies refer to the activities of the H&S Committee in their Annual report of activities, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee? Do and how differ the approaches between micro/small, medium and large companies?

The National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) www.niso.ie holds an annual rewards competition for best practice in the area of H&S. Winning this award is a valued prize in the health and safety community. In addition, in relation to winning major contracts, there is a growing requirement in Ireland for companies bidding for Government and commercial contracts to have a good health and safety record. Generally speaking, good H&S is seen as contributing to a positive organisational image and positive employment relations. It is not really viewed as having a positive commercial/competitive advantage.

3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining (max 300 words)

Please summarize specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries, and how territorial OSH representatives could intervene at workplace.

There are no specific social partnership/collective bargaining arrangements on H&S for SMEs in Ireland.

What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organization intervention aimed to prevent work accidents and WRDs? What is the role of labour inspectorates, social security institutions, OSH services and national agencies in promoting local-level experiences in SMEs? Please summarize, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.

At national level, under Ireland’s tri-partite social partnership framework, the social partners in Ireland have a significant role over H&S policy. In particular, the board of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is tripartite, and is comprised of a chairperson and 11 members, as follows: 5 persons considered appropriate by the Government minister, 3 employer association nominees and 3 trade union nominees. Social partner membership on the HSA board is a statutory right enshrined in section 37 of the SHWW Act 2005.

The social partners also have an influence on various HSA health and safety sub-committees/advisory committees. Accordingly, the social partners can exert significant influence on H&S policy, including strategies to prevent workplace accidents and fatalities.

At sectoral level, the social partners have a significant influence over H&S in the construction sector through the Construction Safety Partnership, launched in 2000. The Construction Safety Partnership (CSP) is comprised of a number of interest groups, notably the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) (the main employer representative association for construction employers), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), nominees from Government departments, and various professional body interest groups. The CSP is coordinated by the HSA.

The CSP was set up with the aim of improving worker safety on construction sites and reducing the unacceptable level of accidents and fatalities in the industry. The CSP has fostered a spirit of co-operation between the main stakeholders in the construction industry to bring about increased awareness of health and safety in the industry. Among its achievements to date is the fact that over 400,000 workers have undertaken the Safe Pass Programme, which is basic health and safety awareness training. Safe Pass is now mandatory for all working in the construction industry, as is skills training for all workers engaging in safety critical activities. A substantial number of managers and safety representatives have been trained and, since new construction regulations were introduced in 2006, it has been mandatory for all sites with more than 20 workers to have a site safety representative.

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies. (max 800 words)

Are there specific surveys which prove that standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones are significant lagging behind?

The HSA provides survey data/general information on H&S and working conditions; primarily in its annual reports and summary of workplace injury, illness and fatality. However, the HSA data does not tend to draw a distinction between small and larger enterprises.

A report published in 2006 provides a valuable insight into how health and safety is dealt with by SMEs. The report – ‘County Roscommon SME Workplace Health Project: A Report of a Pilot Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) Support Service in County Roscommon’ /ef/observatories/eurwork/articles/working-conditions/workplace-health-project-wins-innovation-award - provides an evidential base about the reality of health and safety management and health promotion in such firms. The County Roscommon project, which was an intra-agency effort, involving the Health Promotion Service Health Service Executive West, the Roscommon County Enterprise Board and the Workplace Health Partnership (the HSA and the Occupational Health Nurses Association of Ireland HSE West), was carried out over two phases: a survey of the support needs of SMEs in County Roscommon; and the provision of a pilot workplace health support service.The survey findings provide an invaluable insight into the extent to which SMEs are aware of occupational health and safety and health promotion issues and the measures they take ensure safe and healthy workplaces. In response to the survey findings, a plan was developed to respond to the support needs identified. Explaining how the project came about, Siobhan Hourigan, health promotion officer with the Health Promotion Services HSE West, told Health and Safety Review (HSR) (a publication specializing in reporting H&S issues) said that the European Commission’s Community Strategy on Health and Safety at Work (2002-2006) identified communication of information to those running SMEs ‘as one of the keys to reducing high levels of accidents and ill-health’ in the workplace and amongst the community. She added that a 2001 report from the European Network for Health Promotion highlighted that ‘little attention has been given to the state of employee health in Irish SMEs’. The immediate impetus for the project was the Roscommon County Development Board’s identification of health as one of the key issues to be addressed in its 10-year strategy. Health was defined as incorporating health promotion and occupational health and safety. Given the length of time people spend working, the workplace was seen as a key setting to promote health and well-being. Most Irish workplaces are, the report notes, SMEs. They make up the majority of the workplaces in County Roscommon. The purpose of the survey, the report states, was ‘to gain a picture of current workplace health in SMEs in County Roscommon’. A questionnaire was sent to 2,076 workplaces. A total of 453 workplaces completed and returned the questionnaire. Seventy-two percent (326) of the workplaces were micro-sized enterprises employing less than 10 people, 22% (101) were small companies employing 10 to 49 workers, 5% were medium-sized companies employing 50 to 249 people and just 1% (3 workplaces) were in the large category, employing 250 or more. The 453 workplaces responding were from across the business spectrum: 108 were from the wholesale/retail sector, 50 from manufacturing, 42 from the hospitality sector, 39 from healthcare/social work, 35 from business activities, 32 from construction, 23 from services, 21 from agriculture, 20 from trades, 14 from transport and storage, 13 from education and one from mining and quarrying. The remaining 52 were unclassified.Twenty-one percent of the respondents stated they had carried out health promotion activities. The most common activities were smoking, drug/alcohol, sickness absence and anti-bullying policies. These are topics that have been high on the health and safety agenda in recent years, with the introduction of the workplace smoking ban in enclosed workplaces, the publication of reports on the prevention of bullying, the focus on the drug/alcohol provisions in the SHWW Act 2005 and regular absence surveys undertaken by business representative organisations.The most common activity in relation to occupational health was the provision of ‘effective air extraction’ (25%). Just 17% of SMEs carried out pre-employment screening and 16% provided eyesight tests. Ten percent of SMEs provided health surveillance, just over 10% hearing tests and 12% provided VDU assessments. The survey found that the greatest proportion of occupational health activity took place in medium or large workplaces. The survey found that the majority of companies did not use external occupational medical support.The survey provides a very interesting and useful insight into how safety is managed in SMEs. Sixty-three percent (283) of the respondent workplaces had a written safety statement. Forty-one percent had prepared their own safety statement in-house, the safety statements in 25% of the workplaces were prepared by consultants and in 8% by an insurance company. The average figure is brought down by micro firms, of whom only 53% have safety statements, though 60% stated they had carried out risk assessments. Only 52% of the workplaces responding provided some form of health and safety training. The most common types of health and safety training provided were manual handling training (44%), general training (43%), First Aid (36%), Safe Pass (23%), and fork lift truck driving (18%). The survey also found that 14% of workplaces experienced incidents which resulted in a person being off work or unable to perform normal duties for more than three days.

Details of the survey are contained in Ireland’s specialist health & safety magazine, Health and Safety Review: http://www.healthandsafetyreview.ie/issues/article.asp?id=5058&issueType=4&kw=roscommon

Also, see below for ESRI/NCPP employee survey

Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs?

A survey published in 2003 by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the National Centre for Partnership and Performance (NCPP) – ‘The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employees’ Views and Experiences’ – contains data on training, information and consultation, and some aspects of working conditions, which provides comparative data on SMEs and larger enterprises. http://www.ncpp.ie/dynamic/File/ESRI Employees_RZ Composite.pdf

The ESRI/NCPP employee survey found that training – for instance, on H&S - is strongly influenced by establishment size: those working in establishments with 100 or more employees were twice as likely to have participated in training than those in establishments with 1-4 employees (61% versus 30% respectively).

In relation to information and consultation over working conditions, the ESRI/NCPP survey found that the extent to which information was provided by management improved with company size. The percentage of private and public sector employees who stated that they ‘hardly ever’ receive information from management on a range of items (including changes in work practices, company reorganisation, new technology) was highest in smaller enterprises. To take one example, 47.9% of employees in enterprises with 5-19 employees reported that they ‘hardly ever’ receive information on changes in work practices, compared to 29.5 of employees in enterprises with 100 employees. There was much less variation in levels of consultation on major decisions according to company size – as many as 27% of workers felt there was ‘rarely’ or ‘almost never’ prior consultation on major decisions regarding their work and working conditions (there was little difference by company size).

Significantly, in relation to workplace stress and job satisfaction, the ESRI/NCPP survey found that the size of the local unit has a very strong impact on stress even when personal and other job factors are controlled, with stress increasing with organisational size. For job satisfaction levels, organisational size is again highly significant. Those in the smallest organisations (less than five people) are much more satisfied with their jobs than those in the other three organisational size categories. The negative effect increases with organisational size, so that those in organisations with 100 or more employees are least satisfied.

When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs?

There are no qualitative studies investigating this issue in SMEs.

Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.

Link to Health and Safety Authority annual report 2008, which provides H&S statistics: http://publications.hsa.ie/index.asp?locID=32&docID=331

Link to ESRI/NCPP survey: ‘The Changing Workplace: A Survey of Employees’ Views and Experiences’ http://www.ncpp.ie/dynamic/File/ESRI Employees_RZ Composite.pdf

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level (max 200 words)

Are there well known examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation? Are they exceptions or the rule? Please report at least one example at national level and at least two at territorial/company level.

No well known examples of collective agreements on H&S in SMEs that go far beyond H&S legislation.

Tony Dobbins, NUI Galway

Many thanks to Herbert Mulligan, Editor of Ireland’s specialist H&S publication, Health and Safety Review (www.healthandsafetyreview.ie), for his invaluable assistance and advice in completing this CAR.

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