EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Rapid Granulator AB, Sweden: health and well-being, ergonomics

About

Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Medium
Sectors: 
Metal and machinery
Target Groups: 
Professional/managerialUnskilled Manual
Initiative Types: 
Ergonomics/job designHealth and well-being
Scope: 
All

 

Organisational background

 

Rapid Granulator AB is a medium-sized manufacturing company, located in Bredaryd, a small town in southern Sweden. It develops, manufactures and markets granulators for the plastics industry. A board of directors and a management team head the company, which is owned by Ipeg Ltd – a subsidiary of Sewickley Capital Inc.

The company’s current workforce stands at 136 employees. In 1998, its workforce rose from 131 employees in 1992 to a peak of more than 200 workers, but then declined steadily. Men make up 87% of the workforce and more than 60% employees are manual workers. Women are employed mostly in administration.

More than 50% of Rapid’s employees are aged over 46 years, 20% percent are between 56–65 years of age, a further 34% are between 36–45 years, and 15.5% are under 36 years of age. The company perceives its older workforce and low staff turnover to be a problem and intends to hire younger workers to balance the age profile.

Rapid’s general personnel policy is to make employees feel well taken care of and to prevent absence due to sickness. It also wants to give employees more control in the workplace and has introduced a number of comprehensive measures that involve all employees in the fields of health and well-being, and ergonomics.

Two major trade unions are active in the company, one for manual workers, which is quite influential, and one for office workers. Social dialogue works well and the company has cooperative relationships with the trade unions.

The original initiative

In 1994 and 1995, Rapid needed to expand its workforce to hire machine operators, who were then in short supply. Closures at other companies resulted in a greater pool of fully trained and experienced machine operators, some older than 50 years, in the labour market. The company disregarded age as a selection factor and hired from that pool, in order to satisfy its immediate skill requirements. This resulted in increased productivity and also balanced the age profile of the company’s workforce, which previously had a larger proportion of younger workers

Since then, employee numbers have declined and younger workers have left, resulting in an age profile that is again unbalanced, this time in favour of older workers. The company sees this as a negative effect of the original initiative to employ older workers and has changed its attitude towards recruitment of older workers, despite the immediate gains in productivity that this would bring.

Rapid now intends to recruit younger workers to correct the imbalance. Also, the company wants to add to the competencies of its current workforce by employing younger, qualified workers. Rapid has ceased to recruit older workers and regards its former measure as a single, temporary initiative.

Good practice today

Although Rapid has, at present, no plans to introduce measures directed specifically at older employees, it has implemented several initiatives that apply to all employees.

For example, it has introduced keep-fit programmes and has links with a local occupational health group. It also offers ergonomic services, where a physiotherapist inspects each work station and makes recommendations for design improvements. The aim of such initiatives is to make employees feel well taken care of and to give them more control in the workplace.

The success of such measures is evident in the company’s relatively low rate of sickness absence (3.9%) and in its higher levels of productivity, as employees become more motivated and committed to their work.

Further information

Contact person: Irene Zeller, Human Resources, Telephone: +46 (0)370 865 90

Sources: Annual report, Rapid Granulator AB, 2003

Company website: http://www.rapidgranulator.se/

 

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