OiRA and other online risk assessment tools in national OSH strategies and legislation

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The OiRA Activity

Occupational safety and health within the EU is subject to a number of EU directives. National legislation in many member states also aligns with the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020. Objective one of the Strategic Framework is the consolidation of national health and safety strategies through for example policy coordination and mutual learning, while objective two asks Member States to provide practical support to small and micro enterprises to help them to better comply with health and safety rules. OiRA is mentioned here as a practical tool that can facilitate reaching this objective. The European Commission is in the process of developing a new strategic framework for the 2021-2027 period, and many new national strategies will be drafted based on this.

The promotion of risk assessment among MSEs is one of the core objectives of EU-OSHA’s OiRA activity. Conducting comprehensive risk assessments on a regular basis is essential to ensure a safe and healthy workplace[1]. However, compliance with OSH legislation is perceived as more challenging for smaller businesses, which are less likely to put in place measures to mitigate exposure to risks and hazards compared to larger businesses[2]. EU-OSHA’s ESENER-3 survey, carried out in 2019, showed that MSEs were less likely than larger firms to conduct risk assessment on a regular basis. Compared to 96% of large businesses with 250 or more employees, only 80% of small businesses, and 70% of micro businesses with at least five employees, indicated that they regularly conducted risk assessments.

One of the assumptions underlying the OiRA activity is that user friendly online interactive risk assessment tools help overcome some of the obstacles faced by MSEs in carrying out risk assessments. Incorporation of OiRA or other risk assessment tools in national legislation or strategy documents is expected to increase the resources available for tool development and help improve usage of online risk assessment tools both by increasing their visibility and improving confidence that use of OiRA will be regarded as an effective approach to risk assessment.

Overview of integration of OiRA and other online risk assessment tools into national policy and legislation

A review of the current state of play in OiRA partner countries identified ten countries which explicitly reference OiRA in their national OSH strategy or relevant legislation. A further two OiRA national partners explicitly mention the use of online risk assessment, while three currently include no reference to online risk assessment in their national strategy or legislation. Amongst IRAT partners,

Table 1 provides an overview of which OiRA national partners and IRAT partners have included references to OiRA or other national risk assessment tools in their national strategy or legislation.

Table 1: Overview of references to risk assessment in national strategies and legislation
Country Online risk assessment in national strategy or legislation Reference
OiRA national partners
Belgium Explicit reference to OiRA Belgian National Strategy for Wellbeing at Work 2016-2020
Bulgaria General reference to online risk assessment tools National Program for Occupational Health and Safety 2018-2020
Croatia Explicit reference to OiRA Action Plan for Decreasing Administrative Burden for MSEs
Cyprus Explicit reference to OiRA Policy on the use of OiRA
Czech Republic No reference to online risk assessment tools National Action Programme of Occupational Safety and Health
Finland No reference to online risk assessment tools Policies for the Work Environment and Wellbeing at Work until 2020
France Explicit reference to OiRA Third Occupational Health Plan (PST3)
Greece Explicit reference to OiRA National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2016
Iceland No reference to online risk assessment tools Act on Working Environment, Health and Safety in Workplaces
Italy Explicit reference to OiRA 2008 Consolidated Act on Safety at Work
Latvia Explicit reference to OiRA Latvian Labour Protection Policy Strategy 2016-2020
Lithuania Explicit reference to OiRA National Action Plan on Health and Safety at Work (HSW) 2017-2021
Malta Explicit reference to OiRA Strategic Plan for Occupational Health and Safety 2014 – 2020
Portugal General reference to online risk assessment tools National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2015-2020
Slovenia Explicit reference to OiRA Resolution on the National Programme of Health and Safety at Work 2018-2027
IRAT Partners
Denmark No reference to online risk assessment tools New and improved occupational safety and health initiatives and orderly labour-market conditions Denmark (Strategy 2020)
Estonia Explicit reference to national tool Occupational Health and Safety Act
Ireland Explicit reference to national tool Health and Safety Authority Strategy Statement 2019-2021
Netherlands Explicit reference to national tool Vision and Strategy for Occupational Health and Safety
Norway General reference to online risk assessment tools Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025
Spain General reference to online risk assessment tools Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2015-2020

OiRA tools in national strategy or legislation

Of the ten countries which mention OiRA in their national OSH strategy or legislation, five of these commit to the development of new tools and two commit to the promotion of existing OiRA tools. Five countries refer to OiRA tools as a resource which is available to help SMEs comply with national OSH requirements. One country has a specific policy on the implementation of OiRA and one country has specific legislation intended to achieve the same goal.

Belgium

Workplace health and safety in Belgium is governed by the Belgian National Strategy for Wellbeing at Work 2016-2020. OiRA is mentioned under Axis III of this strategy (Strengthening Prevention), which describes the resources available to SMEs to help ensure their workers are offered the same levels of protection as in other enterprises. Additionally, the development of specific OiRA tools is described as a priority action within the Strategy (Action 6: Developing and Promoting tools for SMEs). OiRA is also included in the formal Policy Agreement (Contrat d’administration) concluded between the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Employment, Labour, and Social Dialogue and the Federal Minister of Work. This agreement foresees not only the development and publication of new tools but also includes the promotion of these tools.[3]

Croatia

OiRA is explicitly mentioned in the national Action Plan for Decreasing Administrative Burden for MSEs, which was published in 2017. A new addition to Article 5 states that OiRA tools published on the Ministry’s website may be used for the assessment and documentation of risks in certain sectors.[4]

Cyprus

The current national OSH strategy in Cyprus is due to expire in 2020, but has been extended for a further 12 months to allow the new strategy to align with the EU Strategic Framework. Cyprus has a specific policy on the use of OiRA and has developed guidelines for Labour Inspectors on ensuring the OiRA policy is implemented appropriately. However, no specific reference to OiRA is incorporated into national OSH strategy or legislation. An explicit reference to OiRA is expected to be integrated into the new broader health and safety strategy, once it is developed.[5]

France

Workplace health and safety is currently governed by the third Occupational Health Plan (PST3), with a replacement Plan (PST4) currently being developed by the Ministry of Labour in cooperation with social partners (represented on the Working Conditions Advisory Board). PST 3 includes a general reference to the development and promotion of risk assessment tools (Action 1.10) as well as specific reference to the Seirech tool, which is intended to help employers assess chemical risks.[6]

Greece

The National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2016 – 2020 refers to OiRA under two of its twelve priority axis, namely “Axis 5: Supporting micro, small and medium-sized companies”. Within this context, the national government commits to provide practical support (including new OiRA tools) to micro, small and medium size enterprises, to help them to comply with the national OSH legislation requirements.[7]

Italy

Article 28 of the 2008 Consolidated Act on Safety at Work (legislative decree 81/2008) states that the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione contro gli Infortuni sul Lavoro, INAIL), in collaboration with regional health offices, may make available technical and sector-specific tools ‘to reduce risks’. Article 29 of the same legislation includes a provision which allows all businesses (with some limited exceptions[8]) to conduct risk assessment using ‘IT-based tools based on the European OiRA prototype’. An additional decree (61/2018 on OIRA on Offices) specifically mentions the updated office tool.[9]

Latvia

National approaches to OSH in Latvia are currently described in the Latvian Labour Protection Policy Strategy for 2016- 2020. This includes a commitment to support training and other measures for SMEs in implementing OiRA and other IT-based risk assessment tools.[10] In Latvia, use of OiRA is officially recognised as a method for complying with the requirement to carry out a risk assessment and completion of OiRA is classed as valid proof of compliance.

Lithuania

The Lithuanian National Action Plan on Health and Safety at Work (HSW) 2017-2021 includes a specific commitment to develop a number of OiRA tools, under objective one: Improving the HSW legal framework and implementation of HSW regulations at enterprises, in particular micro and small enterprises and, in particular, by strengthening their capacities for implementing efficient occupational risk prevention measures.[11]

The National Action Plan also commits to developing guidance to support the implementation of risk assessments for specific sub-groups, namely: employees with less than one year of experience in the workplace; construction workers at risk of falling from height; heads of micro enterprises in the manufacturing industry sector; heads of micro enterprises in the transport and warehousing sector.[12]

Malta

Malta’s Strategic Plan for Occupational Health and Safety 2014 – 2020 includes an explicit commitment by the Maltese Occupational Health and Safety Authority to publicise the benefits of OiRA tools and to develop new tools in different sectors.[13]The current strategy will be updated following the publication of the new EU level strategy for 2021-2027.[14]

Slovenia

The Resolution on the National Programme of Health and Safety at Work 2018-2027 was adopted by the Slovenian the National Assembly on 27 March 2018. OiRA is mentioned as one of a number of measures for realising the strategic objectives aimed at ensuring safety for work.[15][16]

Online interactive risk assessment tools in general in national strategies/legislation (OiRA partners)

As noted above, two OiRA partners include a generic reference to risk assessment tools or to specific tools other than OiRA, in their respective national OSH strategy or legislation.

Bulgaria

OSH in Bulgaria is governed by the National Program on OSH 2018-2020. This program is being extended to the end of 2021, in order to allow for the new Program to align with the new EU Strategic Framework. While OiRA tools are not mentioned specifically, the need to ensure high quality risk assessment focused around a culture of prevention is specifically mentioned in the existing program. The Program also provides for the design and implementation of tools to support the risk assessment process in SMEs and states explicitly that “simple and practical approaches should be encouraged to facilitate enterprises in risk management.”[17]

Portugal

Portugal’s National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2015-2020 does not include a specific reference to OiRA tools but does set a target of providing at least five online self-assessment tools in the 2015-2020 period under Objective 4: To promote information, training, participation and cooperation in the workplace. A new, updated strategy is expected to be developed in the first quarter of 2021 and there is potential to include specific reference to the OiRA tools in this strategy (subject to discussion between the different parties responsible for preparing the document).[18]

No mention of OiRA or other risk assessment tools

No reference to OiRA or other similar risk assessment tools is included in the national strategies of Czech Republic, Iceland or Finland.

Approaches of IRAT partners

Denmark

Denmark’s new and improved occupational safety and health initiatives and orderly labour-market conditions (Strategy 2020) underpins the country’s approach to health and safety. The section on safety and health goals to be closer to workplaces references the statutory risk assessment (APV) tool which, it states, “will be set up as a digital solution that workplaces can use“.[19]

Estonia

In January 2019, new amendments were introduced to the Estonian Occupational Health and Safety Act, which aim to reduce administrative burden, especially for small businesses. A new tool (TEIS) developed by the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center, will allow firms to prepare work environment risk analyses faster and more conveniently through the Labour Inspectorate's working environment self-service. A new draft law has been introduced which obliges companies to complete a risk assessment, either using the new tool or separately.[20]

Ireland

The OSH strategy in Ireland is laid out in a three-year strategy statement, accompanied by an annual programme of work. Ireland has its own BeSMART.ie online risk assessment tool dating back to 2010. There is therefore no specific reference to OiRA tools in the strategy or programme of work, but promotion of the BeSMART tool (and two other OSH tools developed at national level) is a prominent goal of the 2019-2021 strategy statement.[21]

Netherlands

The Dutch vision and strategy for occupational health and safety was published by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in June 2016. This document lays out the vision, goals and strategic actions that guide the national approach to safety and health in the workplace. The national online risk assessment tool (RiE) – on which OiRA is based - is referenced and the function and purpose of the different risk assessment tools available through RiE is explained, including a link to the online portal.[22]

Norway

While there is no official OSH strategy in Norway, the National Labour Inspectorate have five strategic objectives for 2024 which include achieving a high usage of digital self-service tools amongst all companies with employees. The Norwegian risk assessment tool “Risikohjelpen” is not explicitly mentioned, but is viewed as one facet of a broader approach to digitalisation of the public sector in Norway, as presented in the Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025.[23]

Spain

The Spanish Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2015-2020 includes a reference to promotion of the use of computer applications to help employers develop a preventative culture around risk assessment which can be implemented using their own means. Specifically, Objective 3 (Prevention Management in SMEs) includes reference to the development and dissemination of tools to facilitate preventive management and the integration of prevention into business processes for SMEs and micro-enterprises.[24]

Impacts of including OiRA in national legislation

Figure 1: Number of tools developed by OiRA national partners (state of play: 31 August 2020. Source: Ipsos’ calculations based on data from European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (2020) Note: Belgium develops all tools in two languages – tools have therefore been counted at sectoral level, with the different language tools classed as one tool
Figure 2: OiRA tool users per 10,000 MSEs. Source: Ipsos’ calculations based on data from European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (2020), Eurostat (2020) (sbs_sc_sca_r2), and Eurostat (2020) (sbs_r_nuts06_r2) Note: Total business economy; repair of computers, personal and household goods; except financial and insurance activities (B-N, S95, X, K) (NACE Rev. 2) in year 2017. Data for Cyprus refers to overall business population without size class distinctions. Number of MSEs for Greece and Italy refers to businesses with less than 20 employees. Number of businesses for Catalonia refers to local units, i.e. an enterprise or part thereof situated in the NUTS 2 region of Catalonia.

The inclusion of OiRA in national strategies or legislation could be expected to have a positive impact both on the number of tools developed (as the result of a concrete public commitment) and/or  on the uptake of the tools available (as a result of increased publicity and visible support for the tools as a valid method for carrying out risk assessment). Using data on OiRA tools developed and published by OiRA national partners, a cursory comparison has been carried out to identify if there is any correlation between a reference to OiRA or online tools in national OSH strategy or legislation and the number of tools developed within a given country, as well as the number of users registered and risk assessments carried out.Perhaps the most notable finding is that the majority of OiRA national partners (twelve) have included a reference to online risk assessment tools in their national strategy or legislation. This makes more nuanced analysis difficult, as the number of OIRA partners who have not included a reference to OiRA is low. Nonetheless, there is still merit to exploring the data as far as possible. Furthermore, of the twelve countries who have included a reference to risk assessment tools in their national strategy, ten of these (Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania. Malta and Slovenia) include explicit references to the OIRA tools and two (Bulgaria and Portugal) include more general references to the tools to online risk assessment tools.

Impact on tools development

Figure 1 shows the number of tools developed by different OiRA partners. The countries marked in blue represent those who have included a reference to OiRA or other online tools in their national strategy or legislation. Those marked in green represent the number of tools developed by OiRA partners who have not included references to online tools in their legislation or strategies. In general, a pattern can be discerned showing a correlation between more tools being developed and a reference in national strategies or legislation.

Impact on tools uptake

Figure 2 shows the number of risk assessment users per 10,000 MSEs in each country. As in the graph above, countries marked in blue represent those who have included a reference to OiRA or generally to online interactive risk assessment tools in their national strategy or legislation and those marked in green represent by OiRA partners who have not included an explicit reference to OiRA in their legislation. Here, a slightly clearer correlation can be seen between the uptake of tools and their inclusion in national strategy or legislation. More systematic research would be needed, however, to understand the extent to which this apparent correlation can substantiated.

Conclusions

This review of national OSH policy and legislation shows strong support at national level for the promotion of online risk assessment tools. A simple reference to online tools in national OSH policy or legislation may be linked to overall uptake and usage of online risk assessment tools, but it is not possible to isolate this from other activities such as inclusion of social partners in tool development, training in the use of OiRA tools and effective promotion of the tools at sectoral level. A number of explanatory factors could help to explain the successful uptake of tools within specific countries. In France, for example, targeted mailshots accompany the launch of new tools and these have been shown to have an important impact on awareness of the tools amongst their target audiences. In Belgium, tools are only developed if social partners in a given sector demonstrate interest and commitment to developing and promoting the tools – another factor which has been found to have an important impact on the overall uptake of tools. In Latvia and Italy, evidence of completing an OiRA risk assessment is explicitly accepted as proof of compliance with certain OSH requirements, another factor which can be expected to increase visibility and usage of the OiRA tools.

References

  1. European Commission (2016). Health and safety at work is everybody’s business. Practical guidance for employers, page 5, available at https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/cbe4dbb7-ffdc-11e6-8a35-01aa75ed71a1, last accessed 18/05/2020.
  2. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2018). Online interactive Risk Assessment Business Plan 2020 – Including Outlook until 2022, page 6.
  3. National Strategy for Wellbeing at Work 2016-2020, available at: https://employment.belgium.be/sites/default/files/content/documents/Welzijn%20op%20het%20werk/EN/nat_strategie_EN.pdf (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  4. Action Plan for Decreasing Administrative Burden for MSEs, available at: https://gospodarstvo.gov.hr/#index.php?query=page/donosenjem-akcijskog-plana-zapocinje-sustavno-rezanje-troskova-gospodarstvu (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  5. Cyprus Strategy 2013-2020, available at: http://www.mlsi.gov.cy/mlsi/dli/dliup.nsf/pagem2_gr/pagem2_gr?OpenDocument (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  6. Third Occupational Health Plan, available at: https://travail-emploi.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/pst3.pdf (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  7. National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2016-2020, available at: https://www.elinyae.gr/ethniki-nomothesia/ya-oik-4841625642017-fek-3757b-25102017 (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  8. Exceptions are listed in Section 3, Article 31, subparagraph 6, letters a-f. Notably, OiRA tools cannot be used in businesses with more than 200 employees, in mining and quarrying businesses with more than 50 employees, or in nursing homes and hospitals with more than 50 employees.
  9. 2008 Consolidated Act on Safety at Work, available at: http://www.cip.srl/documenti/Testo%20Unico%20Salute%20e%20Sicurezza%20sul%20lavoro++%20-%20D.lgs.%2081-2008.pdf (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  10. Labour Protection Policy Strategy for 2016- 2020, available at: https://likumi.lv/ta/en/en/id/279509-regarding-the-strategy-for-the-policy-of-the-labour-protection-field-2016-2020 (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  11. Tools to be developed include an OiRA tool for furniture production enterprises, an OiRA tool for plastic articles production enterprises, an OiRA tool for enterprises providing cleaning services, an OiRA tool for enterprises providing sewing services, an OiRA tool for quarry operating enterprises, an OiRA tool for agricultural enterprises, and an OiRA tool for educational establishments.
  12. National Action Plan on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027, available at: https://www.vdi.lt/Forms/Tekstas1.aspx?Tekstai_ID=1299 (last accessed: 11/12/2020)
  13. Objective 1: Legislation, compliance and enforcement
  14. Strategic Plan for Occupational Health and Safety 2014-2020, available at: https://pdf4pro.com/view/strategic-plan-for-occupational-health-and-safety-2014-2020-4ad357.html (accessed 11/12/2020)
  15. Measure 1.1.8.: Preparation and implementation of a programme for preparing practical e-tools for risk assessment OiRA, including a plan for their upgrading, promotion, training of employers to work with the tools, and the introduction and operation of the user support service;
  16. Resolution on the National Programme of Health and Safety at Work 2018-2027, available at: https://www.gov.si/assets/ministrstva/MDDSZ/VZD-/Resolution-2018-2027.pdf
  17. National Programme for Occupational Health and Safety 2018-2020, available at: https://www.mlsp.government.bg/uploads/1/npbzr1820en.pdf (last accessed 11/12/2020)
  18. National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2015-2020, available at: https://www.act.gov.pt/(pt-PT)/Itens/Noticias/Documents/ENSST%202015-20120.pdf (last accessed 11/12/2020)
  19. Strategy 2020, available at: https://at.dk/en/about-us/about-the-wea/strategy-2020/ (last accessed 11/12/2020)
  20. Occupational Health and Safety Act, available at: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/511112013007/consolide
  21. HSA Strategy Statement 2019-2021, available at: Health and Safety Authority Strategy Statement 2019-2021 (las accessed 11/12/2020)
  22. Vision and Strategy for Occupational Health and Safety, available at: http://www.ilo.org/dyn/legosh/en/f?p=LEGPOL:503:15045169004145:::503:P503_REFERENCE_ID:322090 (last accessed 11/12/2020)
  23. Strategic Objectives 2024, available at: https://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/contentassets/992af67c6fa34f95b7c02fc022096507/strategiske-malsettinger-2024.pdf (last accessed 11/12/2020)
  24. Spanish Strategy on Occupational Health and Safety, available at: https://www.insst.es/documents/94886/211340/Spanish+Strategy+on+Occupational+Safety+and+Health.pdf/7bacaade-8bda-40b2-9eee-5101fb8420d4 (last accessed 11/12/2020)

Contributors

Palmer, Seifert