The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Analysis of the National Action Plan for Occupational Health and Safety (2015:2)

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has analysed the National Action Plan for Occupational Health and Safety for the period 2010–2015. The plan covers initiatives such as enhancing the Swedish Work Environment Authority's information activities, implementing amendments to the Work Environment Act and the Work Environment Ordinance, simplifying rules and investing more in research and knowledge development regarding occupational health and safety. An important part of the commission has been to analyse the design of the plan and the conditions for evaluation. Statskontoret's commission also included an assessment of the plan's function to guide and steer the priorities regarding occupational health and safety, and of its accuracy in relation to current trends and challenges. Statskontoret's analysis should be able to form the basis for the Government's work on a new action plan for the next five-year period.

Statskontoret's overall assessment is that the plan does not meet basic requirements

Statskontoret's overall assessment is that the plan does not meet the requirements that are to be expected from a plan that is intended to carry out measures regarding occupational health and safety. For example, it is required that goals be explicitly formulated, that responsibility for implementing concrete measures be designated, as well as follow-ups being carried out and performances reported. For this reason, the concluding chapter of Statskontoret's report presents a number of proposals that lay the foundation for greater conformity to these requirements in the next action plan. The proposals relate both to how the process can be designed and to the plan's structure, focus and scope.

The plan lacks an explicit strategy and its initiatives are not accompanied by concrete measures

A survey of the plan and its 29 initiatives shows that about half of the initiatives have been concluded and about a third of them are part of ongoing activities, in most cases conducted by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. Of these, three initiatives are still in progress and two are of uncertain status as there is no further information on these initiatives. A total of about SEK 312 million was earmarked by the Government for action plan initiatives in the period 2010–2014.

The survey also shows that the purpose of the plan's initiatives is not always explicitly stated and that the plan is largely devoid of concrete activities and measures that can support and drive implementation forwards. Some initiatives lack an explicit designation of implementation responsibility, and the initiatives are also not accompanied by requirements for following up and reporting performance. Only about one third of the plan's initiatives have funds allocated. Statskontoret therefore assesses there to be a risk that the plan is underfunded. In Statskontoret's assessment, the plan suffers from an overall lack of an explicit strategy to enable it to achieve its goals.

The plan has not had any steering effect or served to guide priorities

Statskontoret's interviews with the relevant central government agencies and with the social partners make clear that the action plan has not had any direct steering effect either for the agencies or the social partners. Instead, the central government initiatives that have been implemented have been steered through direct commissions to the agencies. Measures by private actors have been implemented at the initiative of the social partners independently of the action plan. Furthermore, in Statskontoret's assessment, certain deficiencies when consulting the social partners probably narrowed the impact of the action plan.

The plan deals with many important challenges while others are inadequately addressed

Statskontoret assesses the plan's strengths to be its accuracy and the fact that it deals with many of the important challenges regarding occupational health and safety that need attention . Many of those interviewed by Statskontoret believe that the plan highlights important areas and provides a valuable signal from the Government regarding the policy's new focus. However, the interviews also reveal that the plan does not adequately address other challenges. For example, this concerns work environment issues associated with globalisation and outsourcing, the increasingly digital society and work without boundaries. The plan also has a relatively large focus on the private sector. Many of the challenges described in the plan are of no relevance to local and central government.

The plan reflects a new focus but the emphasis is not on promotional initiatives

The Government's ambition with the action plan has been to broaden traditional work environment policy and to highlight the developmental potential of the work environment. The plan also provides clear signals regarding this new focus in its introduction and in its formulation of goals. In contrast, the emphasis of the action plan is not on promotional initiatives that draw attention to the positive factors of the work environment. In total, only one third of the initiatives have some form of promotional or developmental purpose.

The evaluation shows that two initiatives have contributed to the desired development but the plan is difficult to evaluate

Statskontoret's evaluation of the plan shows that two initiatives have probably given rise to effects in occupational health and safety. These concern "Pilotprojekt screening" in the graphic design industry and "Säkert bondförnuft", which promotes safe farming. Both of these initiatives have probably contributed to a better work environment and a declining trend in the number of accidents and fatalities in these industries. It is Statskontoret's assessment that the implementation of these initiatives has thus supported the desired development in relation to the overall objective of occupational health and safety.

However, Statskontoret can note that the conditions for evaluating the action plan have certain deficiencies. To begin with, only half of the initiatives are completed and possible to evaluate. Furthermore, the goals of the plan and sometimes its initiatives are unclear and thus difficult to follow up. There are also no explicit links between initiatives and goals/ expected results in terms of either performance or effects. Sometimes the documentation of results as a basis for assessing effects is either absent or deficient. The overall assessment of Statskontoret is that the plan as a whole is difficult to evaluate in its present form.