Tackling safety in Vienna

10 May

Hello from Sunny Vienna, former seat of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro Hungarian Empire, home of the Wiener Schnitzel and Mozart, and all that…

The reason for my being here is the ‘Forum Prävention 2011’. This four day event, run by AUVA – the Austrian Social Insurance organisation, is one of the largest annual health and safety events in Europe.

I had the pleasure of attending the 2010 event in Innsbruck. The event, which is attended by several hundred health and safety professionals and other stakeholders from across Europe, provides an opportunity for those from different backgrounds to learn from each other, to share ideas and exchange best practice.

More specifically, I am here to take part in the ‘International Workshop: Safety and Health in SME’s’ at which I was invited to speak on behalf of the British Safety Council. 99% of all businesses in the UK are SMEs, as are a great many of the 6,500 member companies represented by the British Safety Council.

During my presentation on ‘the regulatory burden and health and safety practices in SMEs’ I look at the difficulties in engaging with SMEs, including a lack of awareness of the regulations, of the available resources for good health and safety management, and sometimes a lack of interest and willingness to engage due to a host of other priorities.

A British Safety Council survey of our members during the Lord Young Review revealed that many did not believe that the current framework of health and safety law was a burden. But these members are the ones that take an active interest in health and safety; there are a multitude out there who are difficult to penetrate and are likely to take a different view.

I also look at the more vulnerable groups of employees, within SMEs, including migrant workers and young workers; who are a cause close to the heart of the British Safety Council. A look at the injury and fatality statistics show that a high percentage of all incidents occur within SMEs. Within this percentage, you can be sure that these vulnerable groups are heavily represented because there are many small employers who fail to give proper regard to their safety. I also look at best practice examples including the British Safety Council campaign for young workers.

It’s amazing just how much of the good work that is taking place to improve workplace health and safety is duplicated across national boundaries. Many countries are facing the same set of health and safety issues and many are adopting similar strategies but so much time and effort could be saved if there were more cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders, as the nice people at the Forum Prevention are trying to encourage.

My lasting impression from this event is that the opportunities for collaboration are great, as is the potential to reduce workplace injuries and ill health if we can work together to achieve common goals. So for now, it’s goodbye from me and goodnight Vienna…

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