DEVELOPING SOFTWARE TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES
MANAGE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
Sally Shalloe, Glyn Lawson, Mirabelle D’Cruz & Richard Eastgate
Human Factors Research Group, University of Nottingham, UK
European SMEs experience higher accident rates than their larger
organisations which directly affects profit and competitiveness.
Research has shown that SMEs may not see the benefits of imple-
menting OSH management systems and often adopt a reactive
rather than proactive approach when accidents occur. This paper
describes the user centred development approach being adopted by
the EU funded IMOSHION project to develop an OSH knowledge
and learning management system to address issues of access to
OSH knowledge, enhance OSH training and improve safety culture
within SMEs.
Introduction
It is estimated that accidents at work resulted in at least 83 million calendar days of
sick leavein the European Union (EU) Member States in 2007 (Council of European
Union, 2011). The figure for work-related health problems is even higher, resulting
in an estimated 367 million calendar days of sick leave in the EU (EUROSTAT,
2011). Within the EU,8.1%of those aged 15 to 64 that workedor whohad previously
worked have reported a work-related health problem in the previous 12 months
which equates to approximately 23 million people.
According to another EUROSTAT report, in the EU “the rate of accidents is higher
in small companies”. The report further explains that “… the incidence rate of
accidentsatworkishigherinsmallandmediumsizelocal units (SMEs) as compared
to local units employing more than 250 employees. This trend is particularly clear
in the sectors of manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, and construction”
(EUROSTAT, 2004). Levelsof Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) management
fall with decreasing company size, especially in companies with less than 100
employees (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2011).
It has been shown that these accidents cost SMEs time and the availability of
specific human expertise which directly translates into money and competitiveness
(Beevis & Slader, 2003). Generic factors cited by Arocena & Nunez (2010) for
such statistics (based on research conducted in Spanish SMEs) included:
restricted finances and lack of OHS management skills in SME managers;
lack of commitment to OSH from managers;
http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/b13826-20
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80 S. Shalloe et al.
absence of workers’ representation in safety management;
non-permanent workforce;
reliance on outsourcing and larger firms;
infrequent OSH inspections;
a general preference for a non-formalised approach to preventative activities.
Research has shown that many SMEs often do not see immediate cost benefits to
implementing OSH management systems and companies who have experienced
OSH related incidents often tend to focus on problem solving rather than adopting
a systematic approach to prevention. However, it is claimed that methods developed
specifically for large firms cannot be transferred to smaller firms and a customised
approach is required to promote awareness and management of OSH in SMEs
(Champoux & Brun, 2003).
The IMOSHION (IMproving Occupational Safety & Health in European SMEs
withhelpofsimulatIONandVirtualRealitySME-2-243481)projectwaslaunched
in early 2011, with partners including SME Associations and SMEs from Spain,
Germany and Bulgaria, and Research and Technology developers (RTD) from the
Netherlands, France, Germany and the UK. This three year EU Seventh Frame-
work Programme funded project was conceived from discussions between a group
of European SME associations who identified a common concern about safety
amongst their member organisations. The SME associations conducted a survey
with their members to identify their specific needs and requirements. The survey
resulted in a list of the most recurrent problems which led to the definition of six
main needs:
1. improve access to information related to OSH regulation in a didactic and
comprehensive way, for efficient implementation of the different regulations
2. provide scenarios with references to regulations and standards, with a focus on
correct, efficient implementation of the regulations
3. organise meetings on safety issues around accident or near-misses to learn from
experience
4. provide efficient training for machine operators (either on production or
maintenance operations)
5. design OSH-sound work environments
6. create and foster a safety culture in the workplace, embedded in every level of
an organisation.
These needs were then employed by the RTD performers, together with the SME
associations and the SMEs, to define the tools to be developed during the project.
For each need, a corresponding system requirement was detailed:
an OSH documentation management system
a visual simulation of OSH practices for a given workplace
a simulation of significant incidents at work, to learn from experience
a user-friendly training tool for production/maintenance operations

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