Upholding sustainable delivery mechanisms to promote Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

The ILO project entitled “Upholding sustainable delivery mechanisms to promote OSH in small and medium-sized enterprises”, which was funded by the Republic of Korea, aims to provide support to ILO constituents in promoting the sustainable and effective delivery of OSH in MSMEs.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) constitute the vast majority of enterprises worldwide, providing incomes and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of workers.

Precariousness and lack of resources are consistently found in most MSMEs. They are also characterized by high levels of informality and low levels of awareness and compliance with occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. Their relatively small size and heterogeneity often imply a lack of the institutional and organizational structure required to support OSH. These factors leave workers in MSMEs particularly exposed to OSH risks.

In the framework of the ILO project “Upholding sustainable delivery mechanisms to promote OSH in small and medium-sized enterprises", the global report Improving Safety and Health in Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: An overview of Initiatives and Delivery Mechanisms was produced. It describes the OSH situation in MSMEs and reviews a broad range of support mechanisms that national governments, social partners and other actors have developed in order to incentivize the adoption of OSH measures in MSMEs.

The report was complemented by the publication Safety and Health in Micro-, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: A Collection of Five Case Studies, which summarizes the OSH situations of MSMEs in Cameroon, Colombia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tunisia. Both the report and the case studies highlight some key lessons to ensure the effective implementation by MSMEs of OSH measures. In particular, national supporting initiatives should be low-cost or preferably cost-free, easy to access and tailored to the specific needs of MSMEs. Initiatives should also integrate OSH with other management goals or business processes.

Based on these findings – and by learning from what has been implemented and identifying which initiatives have succeeded – the “how to” guide Designing a national strategy to improve safety and health in micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises has been prepared to provide decision-makers with a practical tool that is adaptable to different contexts and situations.