Strengths/Weaknesses of tools

Progress in information technologies and use of the internet is leading to the development of a range of interactive tools to help assess occupational risks. Given the difficulties faced by micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in preventing occupational risks, EU-OSHA has focused on the opportunities offered by these new technologies to assist all MSEs in their risk prevention efforts.

The main drivers and barriers for OiRA (or for any interactive risk assessment tool) are examined below.

OiRA drivers

  • A new generation of risk assessment tools: easy access, easy to use, free for end-users

It is important for any project or scheme targeting MSEs to be adapted to their needs — neither too complicated nor too expensive (and preferably free). Constant efforts are made to facilitate access to sector-specific OiRA tools, to ensure that they are user friendly and to keep them simple. The goal is to enable MSEs that have never assessed risks or have never done so in a systematic and structured way to take the first steps in this respect. Easy access, easy to use and free are pre-conditions for the success of OiRA tools.

  • Dissemination facilitated through the internet

OiRA can be disseminated to a huge number of companies without having to manage the costs and constraints associated with printing and sending out paper-based documents.

  • Evolutionary content

OiRA can be easily and immediately amended to reflect changes in legislation or the development of new good practice examples, new processes and so on, ensuring that the tools are always up to date.

The content of the tools can also be adapted for different end-users. The developers of an OiRA tool may decide to concentrate initially on the biggest risks in a sector, adding new modules and new information over time. Through regular updates, the content of the tool can be made more exhaustive over the years.

  • Didactic dimension

Intuitive navigation, educational content, the ability to work at your own pace and interrupt your work thanks to backup systems — these features of OiRA allow users to be guided step-by-step through their work.

OiRA proposes a stepwise approach from hazard identification to a documented risk assessment. End-users, who may never have carried out a risk assessment before, are guided through the process and taken from the first step (risk identification) to the last (making an action plan / creating a documented risk assessment).

OiRA can also be used to:

  • increase knowledge and information (e.g. by illustrating the specific risks in a sector or demonstrating how to carry out a risk assessment)

  • carry out training, especially vocational training; future professionals (hairdressers, lorry drivers, bakers, etc.) can be shown the main risks in their sector and how to carry out a risk assessment by accessing the relevant tool and navigating through the different modules and steps.

OiRA tools encourage and empower MSEs to manage occupational safety and health (OSH) in house or in a more autonomous way. They also make clear the need to consult an OSH professional when there is not sufficient capacity in house to address a specific risk or OSH issue properly.

  • Platform to access other sources of information

OiRA tools are also a platform providing end-users with easy access, through links, videos and photos, to a full range of information and documents, including:

  • legislation

  • guidance

  • good practice cases

  • factsheets, brochures and reports.

  • The possibility of monitoring the use of such tools

The fact that these tools are provided online allows their use to be statistically monitored. For data protection reasons and as a result of decisions taken by OiRA stakeholders, statistics are not generated regarding the content of the tools (the information provided by end-users). OiRA statistics focus on more general issues, for example the number of OiRA accounts created, the number of risk assessments carried out and the number of action plans made. This information gathered from end-users will allow OiRA tools to be improved over the years (in terms of usability, simplicity, etc.) and make it possible to assess whether or not the tools are being used and reaching their target users — MSEs.

OiRA barriers

  • Lack of OSH (RA) awareness among micro and small enterprises

The main reasons that organisations that do not carry out regular risk assessments give for not doing so are that the risks and hazards are already known (83 % of establishments) and that there are no major problems (80 %) (according to ESENER-2, EU-OSHA’s second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks). These results represent only 24 % of the workplaces surveyed, but they prompt the question of whether these establishments, particularly the smallest ones, actually have fewer problems or whether they are simply less aware of workplace risks.

  • Risk prevention is not the main goal or concern for micro and small enterprises

Given the limited resources at the disposal of MSEs, and owners concerns for the economic survival of their businesses, OSH has a low profile in and is not a priority for many MSEs. Barriers to good OSH management include:

  • the weak economic position of many MSEs and the low levels of investment they are able to make in OSH infrastructure

  • the limited knowledge, awareness and competence of MSEs’ owner-managers in relation to both OSH and related regulatory requirements

  • the limited capacity of many MSEs to manage their affairs systematically (in general)

  • the difficulty of reaching MSEs (first step) and convincing or encouraging them to take the measures required to manage OSH in a more systematic and structured way (second step).