Scand J Work Environ Health 2010;36(4):289-298    pdf | Published online: 04 Jun 2010, Issue date: 01 Jun 2010

A review of case studies evaluating economic incentives to promote occupational safety and health

by Elsler D, Treutlein D, Rydlewska I, Frusteri L, Krüger H, Veerman T, Eeckelaert L, Roskams N, Van Den Broek K, Taylor TN

Objectives In many European countries, external economic incentives are discussed as a policy instrument to promote occupational safety and health (OSH) in enterprises. This narrative case study review aims to support policy-makers in organizations providing such incentives by supplying information about different incentive schemes and their main characteristics such as effectiveness, efficiency, and feasibility.

Methods The focal point and topic centre network of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work were used to collect case studies about incentive schemes aimed at supporting the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases in enterprises. Such incentives are rarely described in the scientific literature. To be considered for this review, studies had to focus on external financial benefits that could be provided as part of an insurance-related incentive or a governmental subsidy scheme.

Results In total, 14 cases were included in the review: 6 insurance premium- and 8 subsidy-based schemes. Of these, 13 contained an evaluation of the incentive scheme, of which 7 use quantitative criteria. Three cases provided sufficient data to conduct a cost–benefit analysis. Most qualitative evaluations related to the successful management of the program and the effectiveness of the promoted measures in the workplace. Regarding the latter, quantitative criteria covered accident rates, sick leave, and general improvement in working conditions. The cost–benefit analyses all resulted in a positive payout ratio, ranging from €1.01–4.81 return for every €1 invested.

Conclusions Generally, we found economic incentive schemes to be feasible and reasonably effective. However, analysis regarding the efficiency of such schemes is scarce and our evaluation of the cost–benefit analysis had to rely on few cases that, nevertheless, delivered positive results for large samples. Besides this finding, our study also revealed deficits in the quality of evaluations. In order to enable policy-makers to make well-informed decisions about public investments in OSH, better standards for reporting and evaluating incentive schemes are needed.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2009;35(6):403-413  2007;33(2):85-95
The following articles refer to this text: 2010;36(4):269-271; 2018;44(5):458-474