Every year 5,720 people die in the European Union as a consequence of work-related accidents, according to EUROSTAT figures . The International Labour Organisation estimates that 159,500 workers additionally die each year from occupational diseases in the EU. Taking both figures into consideration, it is estimated that every three-and-a-half minutes somebody in the EU dies from work-related causes and that every four-and-a-half seconds an EU worker is involved in an accident that forces him/her to stay at home for at least three working days.
Moreover, according to another EUROSTAT report, in EU-15, “the rate of accidents is higher in small companies”. The report further explains that:
the incidence rate of accidents at work is higher in small and medium size local units 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.
It has been shown that these incidents cost the SMEs time and the availability of specific human expertise which directly translates into money and competitiveness . Additionally, the reverse is also true: to reduce time to market shorter decision times and high speed manufacturing are consequences which might lead to potentially greater risks for health and safety at work.
The current situation in relation to OSH is that all SMEs in Europe have to obey the national derivatives of the European Framework Directive (89/391/EEG) and its underlying twenty-three guidelines. As there are many more rules to follow, this is felt by the SMEs primarily as a huge administrative burden. One obligation according to the European Directive is the risk inventory that the companies should perform. For the SMEs this is a recurrent, time-consuming and complex procedure leading only to the definition of risks, while the finding of concrete measures to eliminate these risks requires another time consuming search process.
The SMEs targeted cover a very broad range of companies, most notably those working in the manufacturing sectors represented by the SME partners within the IMOSHION consortium, such as construction, electronics, machine building, automotive, aerospace, food industry, metal working, and textile manufacturing. All manufacturing sectors are, by nature, the most exposed to accidents and risks.
The impact to achieve comprises the actual application of the new OSH tools, increased OSH awareness, reduced accidents and occupational diseases, and increased performance in European SMEs.