Systematic review of qualitative literature on occupational health and safety legislation and regulatory enforcement planning and implementation

Maceachen Ellen, A. Kosny, C. Ståhl, F. O’Hagan, L. Redgrift, S. Sanford, C. Carrasco, Tompa Emile, Q. Mahood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Objective The ability of occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation and regulatory enforcement to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses is contingent on political, economic, and organizational conditions. This systematic review of qualitative research articles considers how OHS legislation and regulatory enforcement are planned and implemented. Methods A comprehensive search of peer-reviewed, English-language articles published between 1990 and 2013 yielded 11 947 articles. We identified 34 qualitative articles as relevant, 18 of which passed our quality assessment and proceeded to meta-ethnographic synthesis. Results The synthesis yielded four main themes: OHS regulation formation, regulation challenges, inspector organization, and worker representation in OHS. It illuminates how OHS legislation can be based on normative suppositions about worker and employer behavior and shaped by economic and political resources of parties. It also shows how implementation of OHS legislation is affected by “general duty” law, agency coordination, resourcing of inspectorates, and ability of workers to participate in the system. Conclusions The review identifies methodological gaps and promising areas for further research in “grey” zones of legislation implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Inspector
  • Meta-ethnography
  • OHS
  • OHS policy
  • OHS politics
  • Policy
  • Policy implementation
  • Qualitative methodology
  • Regulation
  • Robens’ report
  • Worker representation

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