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Perceptions of occupational safety and health by small enterprise owners in the U.S.

Palassis-J; Schulte-PA; Okun-A
Proceedings of XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, September 16-20, 2005, Orlando, FL. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council, 2005 Sep; :1-24
The U.S. Dept. of Commerce reports that more than half of the U.S. workforce is employed in small businesses with less than 100 workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the self-employed and their families are twice as likely to suffer injury or fatality. The U.S. General Accounting Office, ILO, and OSHA have reported that having occupational safety and health (OS&H) management programs in place can minimize work-related injury and illnesses and related financial costs. Objectives: NIOSH funded a study to investigate and characterize OS&H management programs and perceptions in small enterprises (Dyjack D. and Redinger C., final report, May 2003). Method: To gain greater insight into this issue, focus groups and interviews were conducted in representative geographical locations in the U.S. with owners and managers, and key informants during 2001-2002. Results: Results of these studies indicate that employers with less than 20 employees were generally unaware that written OS&H programs were required, even in States possessing a statute requiring such programs. Professional associations and vendors were viewed as important sources of OS&H information. Time, followed by a lack of perceived need, was reported to be the major barriers to implementing OS&H programs. A majority of small enterprise owners communicated a distrust towards Federal and State OS&H agencies, dissatisfaction with perceived governmental interference in their enterprises, and generally would not use the free OS&H consultation services, even if they needed assistance. Conclusion: The cost of workmen's compensation insurance was a major concern of the participants, and therefore, holds promise of influencing small business owners toward OS&H in their worksites. The study recommends that efforts to raise awareness and promote OS&H programs be anchored in specific professional small business associations and be tailored to meet the needs of specific businesses, while addressing OS&H barriers and incentives.
Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention; Occupational-safety-programs; Small-businesses; Behavior-patterns
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Proceedings of XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, September 16-20, 2005, Orlando, FL