Health and safety in supply chains

Increasingly, businesses are outsourcing their activities and processes. But
what implications does the growing importance of supply chains have for working
conditions? A new report from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
(EU-OSHA) sheds light on occupational safety and health (OSH) within these
complex networks of suppliers and service providers.

The report "Promoting occupational safety and health through the supply chain"
analyses existing literature on the subject, as well as government policies and
case studies, to provide an overview of how OSH can be managed and promoted
through the supply chain, and which incentives and instruments exist for
companies to encourage good OSH practices among their suppliers and contractors.

Promoting occupational safety and health through supply chains is a good
example of how workers can be safeguarded when organisations co-operate - this
is the subject of EU-OSHA's current Healthy Workplaces Campaign.

As EU-OSHA Director Christa Sedlatschek puts it, ‘our Working together for
risk prevention campaign is based on the idea that OSH is not just the
responsibility of some people in the workplace, but that we create the safest
working conditions when we are all involved. Nothing better illustrates this
than businesses working with their supply chains, to help keep workers safe.'

The report shows that companies are affected by many different pressures in
working with their supply chains to improve OSH: as well as market-based
business considerations and sustainability and corporate social responsibility
agendas, there are also external pressures, such as legal demands and the
concerns of stakeholders, consumer groups and other pressure groups. Though
there are considerable differences between sectors and between companies of
different sizes, the report shows that successful attempts to influence
businesses in promoting OSH throughout their supply chains often involve a
mixture of regulation and market-based measures and initiatives.

Companies who are looking to hold their suppliers to high OSH standards need to
be involved at many different stages of the contracting process, from choosing
safe contractors at the pre-contract stage, to supervising work as it is being
carried out, and reviewing the OSH performance of contractors when the contract
ends. The report shows that the most successful initiatives use a combination
of approaches, with clear rewards for environmental and socially responsible

The report highlights the importance of safety certification schemes, in
particular, as a way of promoting OSH in the supply chain: the national
governing bodies of the different national schemes are currently examining how
they could adopt a common, EU-wide approach, which would help in working with
contractors from outside Europe.

Apart from procurement strategies and safety certification schemes, the report
also looks at other approaches that can be used to diminish work accidents and
ill health in the supply chain, and which could be taken up more widely in
Europe. These approaches focus on issues such as clarifying contractual
responsibilities, improving communication, cooperation and training, and
putting in place joint control procedures.

More information: - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work