Occupational safety and health and smaller organisations: Research challenges and opportunities

James Pinder, Alistair Gibb, Andrew Dainty, Wendy Jones, Mike Fray, Ruth Hartley, Alistair Cheyne, Aoife Finneran, Jane Glover, Roger Haslam, Jennie Morgan, Patrick Waterson, Elaine Yolande Gosling, Phil Bust, Sarah Pink

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the prevalence of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro organisations, comparatively little is known about how such organisations approach occupational safety and health (OSH). Research has tended to present a negative picture of OSH practices in smaller organisations. This paper discusses some of the challenges to researching OSH in SMEs and micro organisations and how these challenges can be overcome. It draws lessons and experiences from a qualitative study involving 149 structured interviews, nine short-term ethnographies and 21 semi-structured interviews with owners and employees in SMEs and micro organisations from a broad cross-section of industry sectors in the UK, including construction, retail, healthcare, logistics and agriculture. Data from the study suggest that the established boundaries between micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are less meaningful in an OSH context – OSH practices are influenced more by the culture of the organisation, the type of work being undertaken and the sector that an organisation operates in. OSH practices in SMEs and micro organisations tend to reflect more informal characteristics of such organisations, with more emphasis (than many larger organisations) on tacit knowledge, learning by doing and improvisation. Such practices should not necessarily be assumed to be unsafe or incompatible with formalised OSH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-49
Number of pages16
JournalPolicy and Practice in Health and Safety
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Enactments
  • Learning
  • Micro organisations
  • SMEs
  • Tacit knowledge

Cite this

Pinder, J., Gibb, A., Dainty, A., Jones, W., Fray, M., Hartley, R., Cheyne, A., Finneran, A., Glover, J., Haslam, R., Morgan, J., Waterson, P., Gosling, E. Y., Bust, P., & Pink, S. (2016). Occupational safety and health and smaller organisations: Research challenges and opportunities. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 14(1), 34-49. https://doi.org/10.1080/14773996.2016.1239357