It is widely assumed that the risks from exposure to chemicals arising from their use in
small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have not significantly changed over recent
years. But little coordinated research has been undertaken across Europe on whether
such assumptions are founded.
Chemical manufacturers and suppliers provide information to assist users of chemicals to
responsibly manage these risks. And this is reinforced by the enforcement strategies of
Member States at the local level. But systematic research is lacking on the factors that
determine the effectiveness of how such risks can be effectively managed within these
establishments and the relative roles that chemical suppliers and enforcement agencies
play in this process. That research that has been undertaken has mainly focused on the
effectiveness of single measures or has addressed sociological issues such as the impact
of the organisation of labour within these establishments.
CEFIC is actively considering how it might support wider research that addresses how risk
management strategies for the control of chemicals are typically undertaken within SMEs
and whether there are any factors that might help such organisations more readily manage
these. In order that CEFIC is able to focus on where it might best allocate research funds,
it considers that there is a need to collate the relevant research that exists within various
European organisations (such as within regulatory agencies and social insurance bodies);
to evaluate it regarding the transferability of findings between countries; and to identify
areas that would benefit from further research.
Proposals are invited from research groups that have experience in working with the SME
sector and the abilities to undertake a comprehensive review of the various studies that
have been undertaken (at different levels) within Europe of attitudes and effectiveness
such as is outlined above. It is anticipated that such the successful group would be
organised to address the wide range of sources of such information and to have access to
skills that include the sociology of workplace organisation, as well as occupational
hygiene. For the purposes of the review, SMEs should be considered to constitute
organisations within the range 20 to 250 people. Micro-enterprises, that is those employing
less than 20 people, should not be considered due to the general absence of established
In reviewing the available research, the following basic questions should be considered:
- What information exists to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of SMEs in their management of workplace chemical health risks?
- What are the key factors in defining when such risks are likely to be of concern?
- To what extent are solutions and drivers for improvement transferable from organisations exhibiting good standards of risk management?
- To what extent might these lessons be transferable across industry sectors and/or countries? And how?
- What might chemical suppliers realistically do to assist SMEs in their responsibilities?
- What measures might usefully be taken to increase the awareness and perception of risk within SMEs?
The final stage of the project would be to share the findings at a stakeholder workshop (in 2005). The workshop would also serve to bring together groups with an interest in the field and to identify potential research partnerships that may be required if subsequent field research work were to be supported by CEFIC.