KAN Report 22
|Occupational health and safety experts in standardization - a survey, 11/1999, V. Eichener (4 MB)|
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One of KAN's main aims is to lend effective support to the German occupational health & safety (OH&S) representatives involved in supranational standardization. To this end KAN requires from the experts first-hand information – information now obtained in a survey. It is in KAN's interests to utilize the existing resources as efficiently as possible and strengthen the influence of OH&S on standardization.
The study has been carried out in two stages:
- Preliminary study with the emphasis on formulating the questionnaire and preparing the survey
- Main study focusing on conducting the survey, evaluation and reporting.
Both parts of the study were supported and managed by the same project-supervising work group.
of the written questionnaire was to gather information from the OH&S professionals in standardization on the following points:
- Self-perceived roles of the standardizers: independent experts, delegates of the employer, representatives of a specialist body, or representatives of German OH&S
- Involvement of the experts in the standards bodies; assessment of the enforceability of their own positions and suggestions for improvement
- Conflict potential with representatives of other interest groups on the reflecting committee or in the delegation sent to European/international standardization bodies
- State of knowledge of standardization policy guidelines
- Ways of accelerating the standardization process
- Appraisal of the European/international standardization work in terms of the standard of OH&S; possible relationship between the product sector and appraisal
- Work situation of the expert in standardization in relation to the delegating organization
- Consequences for KAN's range of services in terms of future focuses and tasks.
KAN wishes to thank the author for conducting the project and submitting the report. Thanks also go to the following experts for their critical supervision and support during the evaluation of the survey:
The following summary of the study and the recommendations were approved by correspondence following KAN Meeting 2/99.
Summary of the study
In order to promote and support the interests of occupational health & safety (OH&S) in the standardization process, KAN requires first-hand information from the relevant experts. This is the most efficient way of utilizing the existing resources and enhancing the influence of OH&S on standardization. Of special interest in this connection are the way in which the representatives of OH&S have so far been consulted in national opinion-forming; and the shortages of information on the part of the standardizers which could be remedied with effective communication mechanisms.
A questionnaire was therefore compiled and tested in a preliminary study. In the second half of 1998, the InWIS institute at the Ruhr University of Bochum, acting on KAN's behalf, conducted a written survey of over 600 German OH&S professionals delegated to the standardization process by the statutory accident insurance institutions, the public OH&S authorities, companies manufacturing or using standardized products, both sides of industry, and other expert bodies.
The study is intended to aid the work of KAN and its secretariat in terms of
- improving the identification of its target groups,
- the future adaptation of its main work focuses to the actual needs of its target groups, and
- suggestions for the optimization of the use of KAN's service tools.
329 standardizers were covered by the integrated evaluation of the preliminary and main studies. This high response rate strongly suggests that the results do indeed paint an accurate picture of the situation and scope of the work of the OH&S representatives questioned. However, this study cannot claim to be "representative" in the strict, statistical sense as the number of all potential individuals concerned (= total population) is only approximately known.
Work situation of the OH&S professionals in standardization
The vast majority of the surveyed OH&S professionals belonging to a supranational standards body work for CEN. The representatives of the public OH&S authorities, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), and trade unions are significantly underrepresented in CEN and CENELEC (European standards bodies), whilst the employees of the statutory accident insurance institutions (84% of the accident insurance experts who responded) and of the test institutes (80%) are extremely well represented. In the international standards bodies, on the other hand, the delegates of large companies are most strongly represented (57%). Two thirds of those surveyed are members of their national delegations, whilst one third perform supervisory functions as convenors. There is a noticeably high frequency of such convenorships in the fields of Machinery and pressure vessels and PPE.
A good 75% of respondents devote less than 20 days per year per body to standardization work. Since participation in standards development is only a side-line for the vast majority of professionals, their involvement often entails a high level of personal sacrifice. In almost all cases, this calls for commitment outside regular working hours; only about 20% are able to prepare and follow-up their standardization work during normal working hours. They undertake this task because standardization is of great benefit to them (above all in the form of useful contacts and information). The overwhelming majority thus claim to obtain useful technical information and contacts through their standardization activities.
Approach to standardization work
There were clear differences in the perceived roles of the standardizers questioned. A large group regarded themselves as independent experts whilst another, smaller group considered themselves primarily to be delegates of a certain specialized field. If one compares the individuals with many years of experience in standardization with those who have only been involved for a few years, it becomes apparent that the majority of those with many years of experience, unlike the novices, see themselves as independent experts and not as delegates of their fields. Further, those new to the standardization process tend to regard themselves as OH&S representatives vis-à-vis the standards body.
Enforceability of German OH&S interests
The majority of respondents are of the opinion that OH&S interests can be almost always or at least to some extent enforced on the German reflecting committee.
Asked about the effects of European standardization on progress in German OH&S, almost 60% state that the German OH&S standards have been upheld. The professionals in the fields of Machinery and pressure vessels and PPE are particularly optimistic in this respect.
The prevailing opinion among the respondents is obvious: It is possible to enforce OH&S interests both nationally and supranationally at least in part if one actively participates in the standardization process.
Action to improve the efficiency of standardization work
This fundamentally rosy picture of standardization work is nevertheless clouded by a number of constraints experienced by almost all experts involved in standardization. In addition to the widespread shortage of working capacity, about half of respondents saw potential obstacles to the enforcement of OH&S interests in the complexity of standardization procedures, the language barriers and an insufficient flow of information. Furthermore, respondents saw in some cases serious deficiencies in access to the information sources required for standardization work. Three quarters of those surveyed have no or only poor access to the DITR database and to the EU information dissemination system. In the course of EC information dissemination, the national standardization topics are reported to Brussels. Anyone can obtain this information free of charge from DITR. Over half of respondents have no or only limited access to the Internet.
The standards professionals therefore proposed a long list of support measures to remedy these problems. The majority of those questioned regarded the following measures as being important or absolutely essential:
- Improvement in the knowledge of languages
- Greater working capacity
- Better liaison with the OH&S experts in other countries
- Further training
- Current information
- Improved access to the electronic media
- Information on procedural issues in the standardization process.
KAN could use this information about the needs of its target group in decisions on the future emphasis of its activities.
KAN services given mostly positive rating
Awareness of the various KAN services differs greatly. Whilst the vast majority of experts are aware both of the KAN reports and of the quarterly information publication KANBRIEF, the website established in 1998 and KAN's training activities are only known to a small number of OH&S professionals.
The delegating institution, in most cases the employer, has a major influence on the awareness of KAN services. Whilst the KAN reports, KANBRIEF and KAN comments are generally widely known among the delegates of the statutory accident insurance institutions, public OH&S authorities and trade unions, the representatives of companies manufacturing or using standardized products are far less aware of them. There is still considerable scope for optimization of KAN's public relations in terms of its activities (website, training events) and target group segments (large companies, SME).
In those cases where respondents are familiar with KAN services, these services are also considered useful in most cases. Only a minority of experts held the KAN reports, KANBRIEF and KAN comments to be uninformative. The KAN reports came in for the highest unqualified approval. However, this does not mean that KAN's activities do not require ongoing adaptation, not only to the changing needs of its target group but also to the divergent interests of certain segments within its target group (standardization novices vs. longstanding experts).
Recommendations from the study
Overall the answers of the majority of respondents contain a clear message: OH&S institutions which participate in European and international standardization have good chances of contributing towards the realization of the goals of OH&S.
The fundamentally rosy picture of standardization work is nevertheless clouded by a number of difficulties, as listed in "Action to improve the efficiency of standardization work" (see page XY). The OH&S experts consequently want support measures to remedy these problems. From this it is possible to derive approaches for the future focuses of the work of KAN and of the institutions participating within it.
Action to be taken by DIN and the delegating institutions
- DIN is requested to examine ways of drawing attention in the standards bodies to its offers with regard to electronic media and the EC information process.
- The delegating institutions are requested to examine ways of facilitating access to the electronic media for its staff.
- The statutory accident insurance institutions are the principal proponents of OH&S in national and supranational standardization. In this capacity, they have assumed the opinion leadership in this field, a status justified amongst other things by the dedication of these institutions to the various branches of industry. The interests of SME as standards users also find expression through these institutions. At the general meeting 1/99, the Executive Board of the Association for the Promotion of Occupational Safety in Europe [Verein zur Förderung des Arbeitsschutzes in Europa e.V.] appealed to the individual statutory accident insurance institutions to continue their participation in standardization.
- The public OH&S authoritiesare clearly underrepresented in the standardization process. The representatives of LASI on the KAN advisory committee are requested to exhort the supreme OH&S authorities of the Länder to improve the effective involvement of government representatives in standardization activities. Decisions like that of the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs in North-Rhine/Westphalia to withdraw entirely from product-related standardization work should be reconsidered in the light of the results of this study.
- The awareness of certain KAN services (website, training events) must be improved. This applies particularly to certain segments of the target group (above all companies manufacturing or using standardized products, SME). The KAN secretariat is requested to examine which means of information dissemination will enable KAN to give even better support to OH&S professionals in their work and which resources should be mobilized for this.
- The OH&S professionals new to European and international standardization require basic information on the procedures and an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the in-depth knowledge and successful strategies of the experienced members of the standards bodies. Suitable information and training modules should be designed and offered to this end. The decision of the KAN advisory committee to this effect must be given priority implementation.
- The respondents expressed a wish for better liaison with the OH&S experts in the other European member states. The KAN secretariat is requested to examine whether it can provide support by, for instance, offering coordinatory meetings on important work items relating to OH&S.
- The KAN secretariat is requested to examine possible funding sources in the run-up to a German debate on the supranational participation of the interested parties underrepresented in the standardization process, e.g. employees and SME using standardized products.
- The KAN Study 27 was conducted from the standardizer's point of view. It would be interesting to find out how the delegating institutions (companies, associations, other specialized and interest groups) view the benefits of participation in standardization. The KAN secretariat is requested to examine the prospects of success of the comparable treatment of this issue.
Action to be taken by HVBG (federation of the statutory accident insurance institutions in the industrial sector)
Action to be taken by LASI (Länder Supreme Joint Committee of Labour Inspection Services)
Action to be taken by KAN