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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 101, Supplement 1, pp S29–S33 | Cite as

Health and Safety in Small Workplaces: Refocusing Upstream

  • Joan M. EakinEmail author
  • Danièle Champoux
  • Ellen MacEachen
Commentary
  • 9 Downloads

Abstract

Small workplaces have particular injury risks and are enduringly difficult for the occupational health and safety (OHS) system to reach. This paper puts forward an “upstream” perspective on OHS in small workplaces that moves beyond the attributes of the workplace and those who work there.

The paper draws on and synthesizes ideas and findings from emerging upstream OHS research, our own empirical investigations in Ontario and Quebec, and our collected research experience in small workplace health.

Upstream structures and processes (regulations, policies, services, interventions, professional practices) are often misaligned with the conditions of work and social relations of small workplaces. Key upstream factors include regulatory exemption, subcontracting, unionization levels, the changing character of small enterprise, joint management, service and inspection constraints, competing institutional accountabilities, institutional orientation to large business, and inappropriate service and policy.

Misalignment of the OHS system with the nature and practical realities of small workplaces can undermine prevention and the management of ill health and injury. To address such misalignments, the paper calls for: 1) restructuring of data collection and consultation processes to increase the visibility, voice and credibility of small workplaces; 2) “audits” of OHS-related legislation, policy and interventions to assess and address implications for small workplaces; 3) reflection on current terms and concepts that render workers invisible and capture poorly the essence and (increasing) diversity of these workplaces; and 4) extension of the upstream gaze to the global level.

Key words

Social sciences government agencies government regulation safety management small business 

Résumé

Les risques à la santé et à la sécurité sont particuliers dans les établissements de petite taille, et les systèmes de sécurité et de santé au travail (SST) ont toujours du mal à joindre ces établissements. Dans cet article, nous présentons la SST dans les petits établissements selon une perspective «en amont» qui va au-delà des attributs de l’établissement et des personnes qui y travaillent.

Notre article est basé sur la synthèse d’idées et de résultats provenant de nouvelles études sur la SST adoptant une perspective «en amont», de nos propres recherches empiriques en Ontario et au Québec, et du cumul de notre expérience de recherche sur la santé dans les établissements de petite taille.

Les structures et les processus «en amont» (règlements, politiques, services, interventions, pratiques professionnelles) sont souvent décalés par rapport aux conditions de travail et aux relations sociales dans les petits établissements. Les facteurs clés ciblés par cette perspective incluent les exemptions réglementaires, la sous-traitance, les niveaux de syndicalisation, l’évolution de la petite entreprise, la codirection, les contraintes aux services et aux inspections, les objectifs institutionnels concurrents, l’orientation institutionnelle vers les grandes entreprises, et les services et les politiques inadaptés.

Le décalage du système de SST par rapport à la nature et aux réalités pratiques des établissements de petite taille peut nuire à la prévention et à la prise en charge des problèmes de santé et des blessures. Pour aborder ces décalages, notre article réclame: 1) une restructuration des processus de collecte de données et de consultation afin d’accroître la visibilité, la prise en compte et la crédibilité des petits établissements; 2) une évaluation de la capacité des lois, des politiques et des interventions de SST à prendre en compte les petits établissements; 3) une réflexion sur la terminologie et les concepts actuels qui rendent les travailleurs invisibles et qui ne reflètent pas adéquatement la nature et la diversité (croissante) de ces lieux de travail; et 4) une application très large de cette perspective «en amont» aux études en SST.

Mots clés

sciences sociales agences gouvernementales réglementation gouvernementale gestion de la sécurité petites entreprises 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan M. Eakin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Danièle Champoux
    • 2
  • Ellen MacEachen
    • 3
  1. 1.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en securité du travailMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Institute for Work & Health, and Dalla Lana School of Public HealthTorontoCanada

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