Sweden: EWCO comparative analytical report on Information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 21 Ottobre 2010


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.

Sweden has a long tradition of awareness of the health and safety in the work places. Trade union representatives have been involved in risk assessment at workplaces since the beginning of the 20th century. One consequence of this is that Sweden in comparison to other countries has a large number of health and safety representatives; regional safety representatives at workplaces. The Work Environment Act that regulates this work is under public debate and a reform is expected to take place within the coming years. There are both national as well as regional efforts in order to help SMEs with their H&S work as well as cooperation between social partners and public authorities, which is helpful for the SMEs.

Background information

The general issue

According to several studies (Walters, 2002, HSE, 2005), Health and Safety management shows significant differences between large companies and SMEs. In these latter, especially among micro-enterprises (less than 10 employees) and small ones (10-49 employees), H&S regulation is a lot of times perceived more as a burden to comply rather than a competitive opportunity because of stronger pressure over costs, company struggle for survival, lack of both financial and human resources. Further, in micro and small firms employers do not always own adequate OSH managerial skills and knowledge and they often see with suspicion the support offered by public agencies.

The extent of workers’ involvement is ambiguous: on one hand it can consolidate and facilitate the work because of the direct relationship with the ownership, while lower skills and shorter average tenure and the lack of OSH workplace representatives, due to legal threshold and/or non-unionization, make workers less involved in taking care of H&S on the other hand.

Regulatory Framework

The Health and Safety at work Framework Council Directive 89/391 introduces general prevention principles applicable to all occupational risks, aimed to ensure a higher degree of protection of workers at work through the implementation of preventive measures to guard against accidents at work and occupational diseases. The Directive establishes the obligation on employers to adequately inform (art. 10) and to consult his/her employees and their representatives (art.11) by allowing them “to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work”, thus including their right to make proposals and to a balanced participation. Finally, the directive sets an obligation on the employer to adequately train at his expenses his/her employees (art. 12) and their representatives, with regular repeals in order to take into account of technological and organizational changes and to the insurgence or changes of new risks.

The H&S at work strategy 2007-2013 stresses the importance of SMEs, high-risk sectors and subcontracting in achieving the target of a 25% cut of work accidents within 2013: in particular, SMEs are seen as more vulnerable since they have “fewer resources to put complex systems of protection in place, while some of them tend to be more affected by the negative impact of health and safety problems”.

The strategy envisages a simplification and adaptation of the existing legislation to SMEs and various forms of support in its implementation, such as dissemination of good practices, training of employees, development of simple risk assessment tools and guidelines, access to affordable and good quality prevention services, and economic incentives. Labour inspectors should play a twofold role both “as intermediaries to promote better compliance with the legislation in SMEs, primarily through education, persuasion and encouragement” and “when necessary, through coercive means”,

Member States are invited to “take steps to facilitate access to good quality prevention services” particularly in favour of SMEs, to improve health surveillance of workers while avoiding inflating the formal requirements, to incorporate into their national strategies specific measures (financial assistance, training tailored to individual needs, etc.). Further, Member States and the social partners are encouraged to promote “the practical, rapid implementation of the results of basic research by making simple preventive instruments available to enterprises and in particular to SMEs”.

The second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008–2013) and the 2008 "European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being" , together with framework agreements on work-related stress (2004) and violence, bullying and harassment at workplace (2007) show both an important shift from the original notion of H&S, as stated by the 1989 directive, towards a more general “well-being” approach, and the prominent role played by social dialogue in its advance.

Figures and trends

Eurostat figures over work accidents (2002-2006) show the highest incidence rates in medium companies (50-249 employees), while micro-entreprises (1-9 employees) show the highest rates over fatal accidents. These trends seem to depend on the impact of manufacturing, construction and transports, while in the other services industries trends are not so clear-cut. However, Eurostat figures by industry and company size are not complete in order to provide an adequate assessment over time. Further, new risks emerge and work-related diseases (WRDs) evolve from the so-called “hygienic” risk factors towards “psychosocial” ones reflecting changes in working conditions.

Similarly Eurofound 4th EWCS does not show a clear-cut relationship between work accidents, risks for health and work-related diseases with company size. When asked “Do you think your health or safety is at risk because of your work?” (question 32) and “Does your work affect your health, or not?” (question 33), respondents working in small companies (10-49 employees) report the lowest scores. However, the share of respondents not well informed on H&S (question 12) declines from 15.3% in companies with 2 to 9 employees to 11.2% in companies over 250 employees: on average, such a share tend to increase since 1995 (see the full descriptive report). Similarly, both training and involvement over organizational issues are positively correlated with company size and could display indirectly a positive effect on H&S. Composition effects with respect to age (small companies show younger population), and industry (wider proportion of SMEs in services) should be taken into account.


1. National settings and regulatory framework

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

Sweden started to implement SWEM -systematic work environment management, (in Swedish: Systematiskt Arbetsmiljöarbete, SAM) in 2001 on the request from the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket, AV). The main idea of SAM is that the companies shall see health and safety as a natural part of their daily work.

One result of EU Directive 89/391 in Sweden seems to be a further development of both regulations and praxis in the Work Environment Act, as SWEM was further developed along with the establishment of AFS 2001:1, a regulation from AV on how to implement and achieve a good working environment.

A paper (from the School of Business, Economics and Law at University of Gothenburg (2008) demonstrates a gap between a lack of praxis implementation and what is stated in EU Directive 89/391. It concludes that there is a lack of knowledge in the area of implementation of Directive 89/391. The blue-collar trade unions are worried about the future development when it comes to implementation of SAM and the Work Environment Act. They consider the positions of health and safety representatives being threatened. The employer’s organisation on their hand regard the directives coming from European Union, where the Directive 89/391 is an example, as “over-implementation” and that Swedish work environment laws and regulation in many ways are the strongest in the world (Trägårdh 2008).

The implementation of the Directive is normally weaker in companies with lack of trade union representation and/or H&S representatives, for example small companies with few or no organized workers and/or with foreign workers, which is especially common in the construction industry (Trägårdh 2008).

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

According to The trade union for professionals in the private sector (Unionen) the H&S work is mainly based and focused on the legislation for health and safety It is mainly the far developed legislation that has been the driving force in the H&S work so far. However the focus and awareness of well being at work has become much more incorporated during the last five years, partly due to government’s policymaking where costs of sick leave have been central but also the public debate in general.

- 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?

Up till now each trade union and social partner has had the responsibility to implement the Community strategy for 2007-2012 into their own organisations, and most focus on the SMEs and particularly the small companies where fatal accidents are most usual. Studies show that companies with less than 20 employees correspond to 60 % of all fatal accidents (Arbetsmiljöverket, 2008. The national strategies are being elaborated this autumn (2009) in cooperation between the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO), the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (SACO), the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees (TCO) and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) on initiative of the Swedish Government’s Ministry for Employment. Svenskt Näringsliv will amongst other propose that health and safety at work will be included in higher education, for example in the education for Engineers.

2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives

- 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?

According to the Work Environment Act 1989 a health and safety (H&S) committee must be formed in every workplace with 50 or more employees. In large workplaces, several committees may be set up. In workplaces with less than 50 employees a committee can be set up if it’s requested by the employees. The H&S committee consists of employer representatives, representatives from the trade unions in the company and at least one employee as health and safety representative. In smaller companies, with a minimum of five employees, the health and safety representative comes from the regional trade union’s offices.

The H&S committee’s principal function is to establish objectives for health and safety activities and to ensure that these objectives are attained. The H&S committee take part in the planning and development of the work environment at the work place. The H&S committee deals with issues such as occupational health care, plans for the working environment, planning of the physical work place, dangerous materials, work place education and rehabilitation issues.

The H&S committee should meet at least once every three months to discuss safety and work environment issues. The H&S committee report on injuries and accidents and make action plans when needed in order to correct and remove risks or change working methods in order to prevent further risks to happen. The committee also makes strategic action plans and input to policymaking in the company on work environment issues.

If the employer does not take action when required, the H&S committee can with support from the Work Environment Act demand that the employer takes action. If the employer refuses to do so, the health and safety representative(s) can demand that the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket, AV) step in and issue the employer with stipulations. AV has the power to prohibit ongoing business activity until the health safety issue is resolved.

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

The H&S committee take part in the planning and development of working conditions and work environment and has the right to initiate action for individuals. However, the employer is responsible for the cost (see also above).

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

Yes. In all establishments exceeding five employees, at least one health and safety representative should be present. For small establishments or workplaces with less than 50 employees that does not have a local trade union representative and therefore do not have a H&S committees, the regional safety representatives is responsible for the work environment. The regional health and safety representatives mandate and role is clearly prescribed in the Work Environment Act and it differs between different trades and industries. The regional safety representatives are elected by the trade union and their members.

The total number of regional safety representatives is approximately 2100, where appriximately 1500 are within LO, 500 within TCO and 100 within SACO. The regional health and safety representatives, as the local ones, report accidents and injuries to AV. Regarding Unionen, only 9. 7% of the trade union members work places have a local health and safety representative, and the rest use the regional health and safety representatives. The regional safety activities consists of recruiting new regional representatives, starting up the work with SAM and carrying out health and safety rounds at the workplaces.

- 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?

Prevent is a joint non profit organisation between Svenskt Näringsliv, LO, The Swedish Federation of Salaried Employees (Förhandlings- och samverkansrådet, PTK), and the leading actor and producer of information and education material regarding work environment in Sweden. Prevent hold H&S training courses at both basic and advanced levels for instructors and supervisors. During 2008 Prevent educated about 6,000 people, an increase of 7 % in the demand for Prevent’s education programmes. Among the people who have participated in the education programmes provided by Prevent 82% said that they found it very useful in their own workplace, an indication of that the education offered is adequate. A specific initiative has been lounged targeted towards SMEs, but no specific information on satisfaction is available from a SME’s perspective.

Besides the education programmes provided by Prevent, the trade unions and employer organisations also offer their local and regional health and safety representatives and management/employers education in systematic work environment management (in Swedish: SAM) and work environment regulation in general. A survey made by Gellerstedt shows that the level and scope of education among health and safety representatives varies, as 38% gets no education at all (2007).

Both LO and Unionen (according to Carlberg) find that the resources for and amount of education and training in H&S is insufficient, in order to be able to develop the work with SAM, cope with both emerging risks as well as legislative and technological changes. Unionen and LO make special efforts in order to educate small and micro companies. The very large majority of their education and information activities are especially targeted to this group of companies (Gellerstedt, 2007).

Both LO and Unionen address it a considerable problem that the public funding for training regional H&S representatives was cut down a few years ago. LO wants that the right to attend H&S training is included in the collective agreement in the future. The government’s funding for H&S training for supervisors was reduced (with SEK 45 millions in 2007) and as a result the trade unions have had to cut down in their training activities. The trade unions criticize that they have to pay for the H&S training, when it is the employer’s responsibility. For the regional safety representative, AV gives funding to the peak national trade unions; LO, TCO and SACO which only partly covers their expenses for education and training. The allotment differs between the trade unions and there is an ongoing discussion whether it should change or not. The rest of the expenses for the regional health and safety representatives and their activities are covered by the trade unions’ member fees. The employers pay for the local health and safety representatives.

The Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen) work very actively with their members giving them education and information in work environment. Teknikföretagen tries to convince employers that it is actually more expensive not to have a systematic work environment management and a clear focus on health and safety work at the work place since work related disorders and paying sick-leave is extremely expensive. This is especially true for SMEs, that are extra vulnerable to work related disorders implying employees being absent from work.

- 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?

The H&S committee can be seen as a control agency which will monitor the employers and ensure that the systematic work environment management is carried out in a satisfactory way. It is the employer’s responsibility to undertake investigations and implement health and safety interventions. The employers often use the occupational health service which can be seen as independent experts. They offer the company ergonomics, occupational therapists, nurses and other expertise in the work environment area.

According to the Swedish Work Environment Act it is the employer’s responsibility to offer the employees the occupational health they need and what the work environment demands. If the employer itself does not carry out SAM, work adjustment and/or rehabilitation, they are legally bound to engage the occupational health service. They employer is responsible for the costs for involving and using the expertise of the occupational health service, also in SMEs.


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

Yes. The H&S committees primarily turn to their trade unions for consulting in H&S issues but they also use the labour inspectorate when they need consultancy regarding interpretations of the rules and regulations in the Work Environment Act. Arbetsmiljöverket are occasionally also contacted by H&S committees.

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?

Serious accidents and incidents must, without delay, be reported by the employer to Arbetsmiljöverket. Thereafter, the employer is legally bound to do an internal accident- or incident investigation. After this investigation the employer must make action plans and take action in order to prevent that similar accidents or incidents happening in the future. There are no requirements for these plans to be submitted to the H&S Committee before publication. Reports are also made by the occupational health service (Företagshälsovården).

In addition to this, since 2005 companies are legally bound to report the number of days employees were on sick leave in their annual financial report, also called ‘health reports’ (hälsobokslut) according to the Swedish Companies Act (Aktiebolagslagen 2005:551). Statistics on sick leave is a measure from the government to highlight the costs of absence and sick leave, and must be reported in percent of the employee’s regular working hours and specified by gender. A public inquiry has recently been made and this law is proposed to be adjusted, due to that many companies find it as a big administrative load to make this reporting. No decision has been taken yet if a reform will be take place.

The employer reports work related injuries to the Social Insurance Agency, which in its turn send a copy of the report to the Swedish Work Environment Authority (they should also give a copy of the report to the H&S representative). These statistics are used for the national occupational injury statistics.

- 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?

According to the social partners work environment has become more and more in focus of the companies awareness, and for example when recruiting new employees the working conditions can be highlighted as a competitive factor. In some industries or sectors there is extra much focus on working conditions, for example the construction and automotive sector where large companies have initiated world wide campaigns and initiatives that goes far beyond legislation. Both Scania and Volvo have taken a large responsibility for work environment issues and have succeeded to involve all their workers in the daily work for improving working conditions. Scania and Volvo also educate other companies, even competitors, and subcontractors in work environment and systematic work environment management (For further information see Skanska Safety Week, the world’s largest workplace safety campaign according to themselves or see the Volvo Way.).

Whether companies do or do not refer to activities of the H&S Committee in annual reports is voluntary, but it is probable that companies that work for and have achieved a good environment are proud of this and therefore take all opportunities to promote this.

Large companies have much more resources to work with work environment related issues than small companies. In these industries, especially the construction sector but also other manufacturing sectors as well as health care, work environment standards are of essential importance: offering a good working environment can be an advantage in competition of work force etc.

Social partners have lots of initiatives, projects and cooperation going on in order to raise awareness and inform companies about the positive factors with H&S work. Examples are offering courses and educations for both employers and employees, providing articles and facts on the importance of a good working environment and trying to influence politicians by actions and debates. It seems like an increasing number of SMEs put more efforts in their work environment and see the work as an integrated part of the companies’ business development. The trade unions state that this depends on the maturity of management and level of knowledge. It varies very much among small and medium companies regarding both the maturity and knowledge levels.

3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining

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

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.

Social partners consider themselves very active in giving input and drawing up guidelines by participating in public inquiries or committees regarding changes in the Work Environment Act, changes in other rules and legislation as regarding sick-leave payments, rehabilitation etc. that have been taking place in Sweden the last few years (SE0907029I, SE0901019I, SE0805049I, SE0802029I). The social partners are involved in training and are responsible for that regional safety representatives are available in small companies and that they participate in H&S committees at SMEs (with under 50 employees). See above for further information about this.

In Sweden there is a well developed cooperation between social partners and public authorities and social security institutions about working conditions and work environment. Below is a presentation of the major actors and their role in work environment.

Arbetsmiljöverket (AV) has the assignment to verify that the employer lives up to the stipulations made in the Work Environment Act. Labour inspectorates are employed by AV, and the numbers have been reduced during the last years due to reduced public funding, decreasing from 400 to 320 inspectorates in 2009. In 2008, there were 440 inspectors which together carried out 38,000 inspections. AV also responds to public inquiries and publishes information about work environment. AV has also a close cooperation with the Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) in questions concerning rehabilitation but also with employer organisations and trade unions.

Work related injuries from both SMEs and other companies are reported to Försäkringskassan, and the reporting provides the basis for their national statistics on occupational injuries. They also have an important informative role (translates information to 14 languages) in the work with preventing measures in collaborative activities with the other actors at both central and local workplace level.

AFA Insurance (AFA Försäkring) is a labour market insurance company owned by the social partners Svenskt Näringsliv, LO and PTK. AFA insures both private and public companies, and the insurances are an integrated part of the collective agreements. AFA also carry out preventive measures and research for improving health in working life. AFA distribute www.suntliv.se, a website about work environment for workers in municipalities and county councils. The website provides information, support and inspiration for employees who want to improve their work environment, lifestyle and health.

Alna was formed in 1961 by LO, TCO and SAF (present Svenskt Näringsliv) with the aim to provide education about alcohol and other drugs and their implication for health at the work places in Sweden. Cooperation between the social partners has been a cornerstone in their activity. Members get advice and assistance in all matters relating to alcohol and drugs in the workplace.

One of the most central organisations within work environment in Sweden is Prevent (earlier mentioned in question number 2). Prevent, besides from cooperating with the above mentioned actors, also cooperates with Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, SALAR (Sveriges Kommuner och landsting) and the Swedish Municipal Workers’ Union (Kommunal) in a specific project regarding the adjustment of the occupational health system to the needs. Another of their projects, targeted towards small companies, is “Framgångsrika småföretag” (free translation ‘Successful small companies’), a quantitative study of small companies all over the country with the aim to improve the working environment in the companies focusing on SAM.

The occupational health service (Företagshälsovård) cooperates with all above mentioned authorities and social partners and is the most central actor dealing with health and safety, rehabilitation at workplaces but also at a policy making level and therefore interaction take place with central social partners and authorities. Occupational health service is included as a part of the collective agreements, also for SMEs.

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies.

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? Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs? LISA When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs. Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.

The largest national empirical survey, the ´Work Environment Survey´ (Arbetsmiljöundersökning), has been carried out since 1989 every second year by Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån) on behalf of Arbetsmiljöverket. Arbetsmiljöverket is responsible for the official statistics on work environment. The purpose of the surveys is to describe the work environment for the population in employment. The survey is based on a sample of 12,500 persons and is conducted with a set of supplementary questions in connection to the annual Labour Force Survey (Arbetskraftsundersökningar AKU). Neither Arbetsmiljöundersökningen, nor AKU specifically focuses on the standards in small enterprises.

Statistics from AV and Statistics Sweden (SCB) shows that most of the fatal accidents take place at the small companies. This is a serious and significant sign that these enterprises significantly lag behind in the strategic health and environment work compared to the large ones. The fatal accidents have increased with 35 % from 2003 to 2007. Employees within small enterprises, self-employed persons and people over 55 and older are overrepresented in the statistics (60 % of fatal accidents take place in companies with less than 20 employees). The construction industry is an example that is overrepresented in the statistics over fatal accidents. Underlying causes are that the number of people who start their own business have increased in combination with the fact that many of these lack sufficient knowledge of the Work Environment Act. (http://www.av.se/dokument/Press/projektrapport_dodsolyckor_2008.pdf).

Compared to 2003 the work-related diseases have decreased in all companies with almost 60%. This is the lowest number of reported work-related diseases since 1979 when the Swedish Information System for Occupational Accidents and Work-related Diseases (ISA) was established, and inspections started. ISA is part of the Swedish Work Environment Authority.


Arbetsmiljöverket’s labour inspectors report and classify the status/level of systematic work environment management in companies they visit. The classification is called SAM-status (in English: SWEM-status) and is based on a scale from 1-4 (1 = SAM is not present, 2 = SAM has been initiated, 3 = SAM is functioning, 4 = SAM is functioning efficiently). The statistics show that there is a higher SAM-status in larger and medium sized companies compared to small and micro sized companies (no public statistics available on this).

Due to that many studies have proved that small companies to a less extent than large companies pursue health and safety at work, the organisation Prevent started the project Framgångsrika småföretag (`Successful small companies´) in cooperation with Svenskt Näringsliv, LO, PTK and the insurance company AFA. The project took place in 2004-2007 and offered small companies to attend courses in systematic work environment management, being the largest initiative ever directed at small companies in the working environment area. The aim with the project was to get small companies to start to work with SAM and the result emphasized the impact of training, information and consultation when working for a good working environment. The conclusion of the project shows that after participating, 52 % of the small companies had an action plan for the working environment, written risk evaluations, SAM-plans and a written work environment policy. See the link for the final report with the experience from the project.

An extensive literature analysis regarding the work environment in SMES since 1980’s has been carried out by Peter Hasle and Hans Limborg (2004), with following conclusions: The management’s attitude and level of knowledge about work environment is essential in SMEs and the risk for accidents is much higher in small and micro companies. The physical work environment standards are often worse in small companies than in larger companies, while the psychosocial work environment can be better in small companies. Few of the SMEs, especially micro and small companies live up to the prescription by the Work Environment Act, and especially not regarding SAM. The study also point out that some methods for teaching SMEs are more successful than others, direct dialogue and active participation give better results than passive information.

Småföretagsenheten (the Unit for Small-scale Enterprises) has since the 1980’s offered education to small-scale companies about work environment and well being for four county councils in middle part of Sweden. They perform systematic comparable studies on small companies in various sectors regarding work environment and health and security. The results from these studies can be compared with both companies in the same industry, and results from other industries. Småföretagsenheten offers education, tools and methodology support for SAM-work in small companies, and participants receive concrete help on how to work in a systematic way. Småföretagsenheten has developed their own methodology ’internal control of work environment’ (2000) for working with SAM in small companies. This includes participation of both employer and employees, adjusted to the needs and prerequisites of the work place and follow ups of the work every five years.

The follow ups of the results show that the standard and levels of working environment awareness have increased in participating companies (Karlsson – Oliv, 2000). 75% of the small companies found that the methodology was very easy to apply and that they could continue the work on their own after the initial support and coaching. One central thing in the methodology is a check-list.

Småförtagsenheten has carried out hundreds of studies and research since the 1980’s. It is not possible to refer to all studies and their results in this Comparative Analytical Report, but an overview of the work that has been undertaken is published on their webpage. One specific report made by Bornberger-Dankvardt, Ohlson and Westerholm (2003) ‘Arbetsmiljö- och hälsoarbete i småföretag. Arbetsliv i omvandling’ (free translation: Work Environment- and health in small companies- working life in change) is worth mentioning here and builds much of its conclusion on the above mentioned report by Hesle. The conclusion of the report is that despite that the general working environment has improved this does not count for small enterprises. The author’s highlight that in smaller companies few employers have undergone education in working environment issues, and the presence of working environment at the agenda strictly depends on the knowledge and interest of the individual employer.

Another study carried out by Andersson, Rosén & Klusell L (2006) ‘FöretagSAM. En jämförelse av två modeller för implementering av systematiskt arbetsmiljöarbete på mindre tillverkningsföretag’ evaluated two different education models on systematic work environment in micro and small manufacturing companies (6-40 employees). Other research has shown that these companies have difficulties in implementing SAM in line with the legislative framework and standards. The effect of the education models where evaluated out of the SAM-status, (earlier mentioned as Arbetsmiljöverket’s classification on a scale 1-4 of the level or standard of SAM). Clear improvements were found as a result of the education activities and one model was proven to bee more effective than the other, the so called ‘supervision model (handledarmodellen: a supervisor with special expertise in SAM-work helps companies to initiate and implement SAM) was more effective than the ‘network model (nätverksmodellen: several companies in the same region cooperate with implementing SAM, with the aim to exchange experiences and learn from each other).

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level

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.

Before the 1990’s it was much more common with specific work environment agreemets than it is today. Usually the collective agreements refer to the regulation in the Work Environment Act. Work environment agreements are more of an exception than the rule.

However, there are some exceptions such as in the energy sector, electronic and technical sector and retail. The national work environment collective agreement between the Swedish Electricians Union (Svenska Elektrikerförbundet) and its counterpart employer organisation (Elektriska Installatörsorganisationen, EIO – no translation available in English) was highlighted by Unionen as a good example that goes beyond legislation.

Other good examples at company level among SMEs for a very high level of H&S awareness and systematic work environment management is Lillkärr geriatric care centre. Lillkärr has won many prices and awards, as they recent years have strongly lowered absence from work by different measures such as the employer providing physical exercise and wellness training, flexible working hours for parents with small children and a strong focus on the individual co-worker and her needs. Lillkärr geriatric care centre won the Big Work Environment Price in 2008 (award given by Arbetsmiljöforum, free translation Work Environment Forum and the work environment paper “Du&Jobbet). Lillkärr has also won the category, best place to work by Alecta, the occupational pension specialist company.

Another good example of a SME is Cementa AB- the division in Slite (Cementa AB Slite) and department Quality & Environment. They were nominated for the work environment price given by the trade union for professionals in the private sector (Unionen) in 2008. The theme (2008) was innovation in risk estimate and Cementa AB was awarded as they put a lot off effort in their health and safety work, with an awareness of the issue at both staff and management levels, with daily risk calculations and safety representatives being involved at an early stage in the innovation process. A third example is Polaris Optic AB (Polaris Optic AB) which was nominated for the same price in 2007. Polaris Optic AB is a small company that makes Polaris Eyewear in their factory outside Boden, Norrbotten, Sweden.


Reports and publications

  • Andersson, Rosén & Klusell L (2006) ‘FöretagSAM. En jämförelse av två modeller för implementering av systematiskt arbetsmiljöarbete på mindre tillverkningsföretag’Arbete och Hälsa 2006:5, Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm.

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S, Ohlson C-G, Westerholm P (2003) Arbetsmiljö- och hälsoarbete i småföretag. Arbetsliv i omvandling, Arbetslivsinstitutet, 2003:1 Stockholm.

  • Gellerstedt, Sten (2007) The H&S representative’s work and experiences, The Trade Union Confederation in cooperation with Swedish Statistics

  • Hasle, Peter, Limborg, H J & Nalholm E (2004) Arbejdsmiljøarbejdet i mindre og mellemstore virksomheder – en litteraturanalyse. Danmarks Tekniske Universitet & Center for Alternativ Samfundsanalyse, Copenhagen.

  • Karlsson, Lars-Åke & Oliv, Åke (2000) ’Internkontrol av arbetsmiljön – en metod att införa Internkontroll i det lilla företaget’. Rapport S1/2000. Småföretagsenheten (in English:the Unit for Smallscale Enterprises) Örebro.

  • Lagerström, Gunnar, (2007) Finalreport about the project ‘Framgångsrika småföretag’ (Successful small business) Prevent.

  • Trägårdh, Björn (2008) The role of health and safety representatives in Sweden –The implementation of EEC Directive 89/39, Working paper in Studies of Organizational and Society, School of Business, Economics and Law at University of Gothenburg.

  • Voss, Eckhard, (2009) Working Conditions and Social Dialogue- national frameworks, empirical findings and experience of good pratice at enterprise level in six European countries (draft report September 2009)

  • Walters D. (2002), Regulating health and safety in small enterprises. PIE, Peter Lang, Brussels

Websites (for the social partners website please se below under interviews)

Vårdguiden Interviews

  • Christina Järnstedt, responsible for work environment in the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO) 46 8 796 25 67

  • Sten Gellerstedt, responsible for work environment in the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO) 46 8 796 25 00

  • Karin Karlström, investigator in the area work environment and human resources in the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations (SACO) 46 8 613 48 33

  • Anders Fågelberg, Swedish Federation of Business Owners (Företagarna) 46 8 406 17 14

  • Eva Kovar, work environment expert, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) 46 8 55 34 31 45

Gunnar Lagerström, responsible for the project “Successful small business”, Prevent 46 8 402 02 44

  • Anders Hörberg- The Swedish Work Environment Authority, svar1@av.se

  • Björn Hammar, The Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen)

46 8 782 09 87

  • Annelie Carlberg, Unionen, the Trade union for Professionals in the private sector (Unionen)

46 21 404 912

  • Sten Dankvardt, Head of Småföretagsenheten (The Unit for Smallscale Enterprises) at the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Örebro University Hospital, 46 19 602 24 65

Further reading:

  • Antonsson, Ann-Beth & Schmidt, Lisa (2003)’The occupational health services, OHS, and small companies- a survey of needs, attitudes and activities as a basis for suggestions on development of OHS. IVL rapport B1542, Svenska Miljöinstitutet.

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S (2000) Hälsofrämjande arbete i små- och medelstora företag (s. 107-112) i Menckel & Österblom; Hälsofrämjande processer på arbetsplatsen - om ledarskap, resurser och egen kraft, Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm.

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S (2002) Work and health in small enterprises (s. 96-101) i Menckel & Österblom; Managing Workplace Health - Sweden meets Europé, Workplace Health Promotion in Europé & Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm.

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S, Antonsson A-B, Birgersdotter L (2002) Small enterprises in Sweden - Health and safety and the significance of intermediaries in preventive health and safety. Arbete och hälsa nr 2002:1, Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm.

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S (2002) medförfattare i Gelin & Holm A; Fri, frisk och framgångsrik? - om småföretagares hälsa och arbetsmiljö, Småföretagsenheten & Arbetslivsinstitutet & Prevent, Stockholm

  • Bornberger-Dankvardt S, Ohlson C-G, Andersson I-M, Rosén G (2005) Arbetsmiljöarbete i småföretag - samlad kunskap samt behov av forskning och utvecklingsinsatser, Arbete och Hälsa nr 2005:6, Arbetslivsinstitutet, Stockholm

  • HSE (2005), Obstacles preventing worker involvement in health and safety, Research Report 296. http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr296.pdf

Karolin Lovén, Oxford Research

[1] Question 28a_1 “Have you undergone: Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed?”; Question 28a_2: “Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed - number of days”; question 28b_1. “Have you undergone: Training paid for by yourself?”; question 28b_2. “Training paid for by yourself - number of days”; question 28c: “Have you undergone: On-the-job training?”; question 28d. “Have you undergone: Other forms of on-site training and learning?”

[2] Question 30b: “Over the past 12 months have you been consulted about changes in the organisation of work and / or your working conditions?”; question 30d. “Over the past 12 months have you discussed work-related problems with your boss?”

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Aggiungi un commento