Improving Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Regulations: An Overarching Review, European Risk Observatory Report

David Walters, Richard Johnstone, Elizabeth Bluff, Hans Jørgen Limborg, Ulrik Gensby

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    Injury, ill health and death are never intended consequences of work, but the available data documenting the continuing extent of work-related harm remind us that preventing these consequences remains a challenge. Despite huge advances in technology and health sciences, this challenge is still very much in evidence, even in the advanced market economies of the Member States of the European Union (EU). As is the case in all countries, workers continue to be injured, made ill or die as a consequence of their work. At the same time, it is widely accepted that such harm is largely preventable. Effective strategies to achieve such prevention remain elusive, making efforts to support compliance and achieve better practice an ongoing aim of national and EU policies. A further challenge for prevention strategies is that the circumstances in which work-related harm occurs are seldom static. In fact, a leitmotif of advanced economies nowadays is the speed of change in the structure and organisation of economic activity, and the technologies that support it. With this comes continuous change in the nature and distribution of work-related risks to safety and health. Policies, strategies and the actual measures to achieve effective prevention therefore also need to be responsive to these challenges. This report seeks to provide an overarching review of the literature concerning institutional support for these prevention strategies and measures and their role in improving occupational safety and health (OSH) in the context of the changing structure, organisation and control of work in the EU. It examines the ways in which the various forms of institutional support (outlined in the next section), on their own and in combination, promote better OSH practice to prevent injury, illness and death at work. ‘Better OSH practice’ in this context includes better practice in implementing OSH arrangements, and improving the extent and quality of compliance with OSH regulatory standards. As explained further in section 1.4, the report examines the influence of the various forms of institutional support on OSH practice and compliance within the framework of regulatory studies, in which ‘regulation’ is broadly conceived to include not just standard setting, inspection and enforcement by the state, but also the activities of a broad range of non-state actors such as external prevention services and influential firms in supply chains. The report heralds the start of a new European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) research programme on securing compliance and better OSH practice, and its aim is to inform the European Commission of new research being carried out as part of this programme. This final report it published in conjunction with a detailed literature review, i.e. it is explaining the aims and intentions of the research, its methods, analysis and key findings, along with their implications for policy and further research. The findings are presented as concisely possible in this final report, however, the detailed analysis and substantiated findings of the overarching review are presented separately in a literature review.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyEuropean Agency for Safety and Health at Work
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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