Perceptions of occupational injury and illness costs by size of organization

Background: Little is known about how organizations perceive and monitor occupational injury and illness costs. Aims: To explore perceptions of injury and illness costs, the extent to which organizations monitor their impact, attitudes towards this practice and views on using cost information in health and safety campaigns. Methods: Interviews were conducted with 212 representatives from 49 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 80 large organizations from a range of industry sectors. Results: Health and safety investments were driven by a range of factors, of which cost reduction was only one. Human costs were also considered important. Injuries were perceived to represent a substantial business cost by 10% of respondents from SMEs and 56% of those from large organizations. Most were uncertain about the financial impact of work-related illness. No organizations had attempted to monitor occupational illness costs. Injury costs had been assessed within 3 SMEs and 30 large organizations. Only 12% of SME representatives recognized the benefits of costing health and safety failures and around half were unreceptive to the use of cost information in health and safety promotions. Two-thirds of those from large organizations recognized some benefit in measuring costs, and over three-quarters welcomed the provision of industry-specific information. Conclusions: Provision of information that focuses solely on the economic implications of occupational injury and illness may be of limited value and agencies involved in the promotion of health and safety should incorporate a range of information, taking into account the needs and concerns of different sectors.