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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


Focus Archive

European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER)

May 2009

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) is carrying out a Europe-wide establishment survey on health and safety at the workplace. The responsible actors (managers and workers' health and safety representatives) are asked about how health and safety risks are managed at their workplace, with a particular focus on psychosocial risks; i.e. on phenomena such as work-related stress, violence and harassment. The survey aims to assist workplaces across Europe to deal more effectively with health and safety and to promote the health and well-being of employees. It will provide policy makers with cross-nationally comparable information relevant for the design and implementation of new policies in this field.

The survey, which involves approximately 40,000 interviews and covers 31 countries, has the support of governments and social partners at European level. For EU-OSHA, this €2.3 million project represents one of its most important initiatives to date and is expected to provide valuable information for use over several years.

Support for policy makers

Through the framework Directive 83/391/EEC and its five individual directives, Community legislation provides the framework for workers in Europe to enjoy high levels of health and safety at the workplace. Implementation of these provisions differs from one country to another and their practical application varies according to sector, category of worker and size of enterprise. The increasing importance of 'emerging' risks, such as stress, violence and harassment, poses a challenge for policy makers in their development of effective prevention measures.

In asking questions directly to managers and workers about the way occupational safety and health (OSH) is managed, ESENER aims to identify important success factors and to highlight the principal obstacles to effective prevention. The survey investigates what enterprises do in practice to manage health and safety; what are their main reasons for taking action; and what support they need. As well as looking at management of OSH in general, the approach taken by enterprises to the management of psychosocial risks is also examined. Emerging risks of this type present enterprises with a significant challenge and require efficient measures on the part of policy makers.

The results of the survey will improve the effectiveness of preventive actions by helping to ensure that they are comprehensive, targeted, and that they focus on the key issues.

Involvement of workers is a further aspect of the management of safety and health at work that will be described by ESENER. With a separate interview directed at health and safety representatives, the results should paint a comprehensive picture of the nature and extent of worker involvement in OSH management. The results should also highlight the importance of worker involvement as a factor in the successful implementation of preventive measures at the workplace level.

Support for researchers

The results of the survey will provide some immediate, clear messages; however, much of the information that will be most important to policy makers will only come out following more detailed analyses. With approximately 45 'content' questions in the management interview and a further 35 in the health and safety representative interview, researchers will play a key role in interpreting the data produced by ESENER. The data from the interviews, which are likely to number over 40,000, will be made available free of charge to researchers (see the section "Further information").

The survey will provide researchers with comparable data that will enable better analyses to be made of, for example, approaches to prevention, attitudes to safety and health, or involvement of workers across Europe, by sector or size class.

The methodology and specifications used by ESENER are in line with those used in the establishment surveys of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), which offers the possibility of combining the data.

Towards the end of 2009, EU-OSHA will tender research projects to carry out secondary analyses on the survey data.

Support for workplaces

Although ESENER's main benefits to workplaces are expected to arise through the interventions of policy-makers, enterprises will be able to use the survey questions directly at workplace level to set a benchmark and to compare their own OSH management practices with those at other enterprises.

Support for other Agency activities

As the most important provider of information on safety and health at work at the European level, EU-OSHA will use the results of ESENER to focus its campaigns more effectively on the key issues for enterprises. The 2008-2009 European campaign in particular will benefit from up-to-date information on how enterprises carry out risk assessment in practice and from the identification of needs for support and of the main difficulties encountered.

It will also be useful to benchmark enterprises' awareness of the Agency's activities with a view to evaluating its communication and promotion.