Best practices in OSH - introduction


The beginning of 21st century and the social and economic changes occurring at the turn of centuries have brought a necessity to introduce changes in the functional models of enterprises. Also, due to the progressing globalisation and individualisation entrepreneurs of various industries fight similar problems, but cannot always work out necessary solutions. Therefore, in such circumstances best practices are helpful, which can be treated as guidelines, workable solutions or ideas to implement.


The first document referring to “best practices” was the British Cadbury Report[1] (end of 1992). It contained best practices for corporate governance[2], and was prepared as a response to increasing problems of companies – scandals, bankruptcies and low confidence in financial statements drawn up by listed companies. In Poland, best practices officially appeared in 2001, when the Best Practice Committee was established at the Warsaw Stock Exchange [1].


At present, it is not only the representatives of the finance and corporate world that share best practices. The latter are a source of ideas and inspiration also for those who organise and carry out actions for improving the safety of man in the working environment. Presenting such activities called “best practice examples” is presently part of most events popularizing and educating in OSH issues. Unfortunately, not every activity called “best practice” is one, in fact.


Best practices are defined in literature as action taken for achieving established purposes in the most effective way. [2]. A. Karwińska and D. Wiktor defined best practices as “such rules of action and such projects that lead an organisation to good or very good results” [3]. Another definition describes “best practice” as a method of action that was proven – by experience or research – to bring desired results [4]. However, it should be remembered, that in order for actions, techniques or projects to be qualified as “best practices”, not only do they have to be considered “good” but should also meet the following criteria [3]:

  • effectiveness – such actions can be considered effective whose starting point is recognition of needs and abilities of target groups (and objectives are formulated accordingly), and which bring the actor closest to the targets and mission of the enterprise;
  • efficiency – is a relationship of outlays (cost) and results (benefit). Efficient actions allow meeting expected results with optimum use of resources;
  • planning – planning and careful preparation facilitates quick and efficient execution of each stage. In well-planned actions there are three stages: careful analysis of situation (1), which next becomes a base for action strategy (2), that in turn being translated into operating tasks, (3), containing guidelines for specific tasks;
  • reflectiveness (incorporating an evaluation element to actions) – projects being “best practices” should be evaluated on an ongoing basis with objective tools, e.g., assessment and opinions by beneficiaries and/or third parties, not involved in the projects. The results of the evaluation are used for better execution of next actions;
  • innovativeness – innovativeness may consist in having a good idea or noticing new possibilities that can be creatively applied;
  • universality – „best practice” must be applicable in different than original conditions.
  • ethics – „best practice” cannot in any way entail the „end justifies the means” attitude. It must be within the law and good conduct observed in the given socio-cultural system.


On the basis of the definition of best practices proposed by A. Karwińska and D. Wiktor [3], best practices in OSH can be considered as such rules of action and such projects that lead an enterprise to good or very good results in OSH. They should also meet additional criteria, i.e., possibility to apply by other enterprises, good planning, self-evaluation, and ethics of action. Also, they can be distinguished by novelty approaches to solving OSH problems.

The criteria an action should meet to be qualified as “best practice” in OSH, include [5]

  • reducing the total potential exposure of workers or other individuals involved, resulting from an identified source of hazard,
  • reaching a stable and distinctive reduction of hazard for workers,
  • improving general working conditions and effective promotion of health, safety and efficiency.


Moreover, best practices should

  • indicate methods and steps that can be taken at the workplace or enterprises in order to improve working/living conditions, or to reduce hazard for health and safety on the enterprise level,
  • concentrate, when possible, on identifying hazards at source,
  • be effective and ethical,
  • meet respective state law requirements,
  • be up-to-date and adapted to the needs of target users,
  • contain enough information so that it can be applied at other workplaces,
  • assume serious attitude of all parties, especially the workers who will be part of the actions undertaken, and their representatives.


Examples of best practices in OSH can serve as inspiration and examples to follow. They can also be useful for promoting OSH knowledge and experience gained in previous projects. For many enterprises, best practices in OSH may also be a reference level in evaluating their everyday activity. However, representatives of enterprises searching for new ideas and inspiration should bear in mind that it is necessary to adapt best practices to their own conditions – the recipients, their needs and abilities, to the business field and the environment where the actions are to be carried out.


Recognizing the necessity of building and developing partnership between enterprises in the field of labour safety and health protection by exchanging best practices in OSH, the Central Institute for Labour Protection-National Research Institute is running a 2015 national campaign „Share your safety. Promote best practices in OSH”. The campaign will be carried out over 10 months – from March to December 2015. Detailed information on the campaign and specific events will be available on the website




  1. M. Aluchna (2008). Dobre praktyki corporate governance. Światowe tendencje a polskie doświadczenia. „E-mentor“, nr 2 (24) / 2008,ęp: 16.01.2015).
  2. S. Dani, J.A. Harding, K. Case, R.I.M. Young, S. Cochrane, J. Gao, and D. Baxter (2006). A methodology for best practice knowledge management. „Proc. ImechE, Part B: J. Engineering Manufacture”, vol. 220, s. 1717-1728
  3. A. Karwińska, D. Wiktor (2008). Przedsiębiorczość i korzyści społeczne: Identyfikacja dobrych praktyk w ekonomii społecznej. „Ekonomia Społeczna Teksty” nr 6 , Fundacja Inicjatyw Społeczno-Ekonomicznych, (Dostęp: 16.01.2015).
  4. SearchSoftwareQuality, (Dostęp: 16.01.2015).
  5. (Dostęp: 16.01.2015).



[1] The name of the document comes from A. Cadbury - the chairman of the committee preparing the rules of corporate governance[1].

[2] Corporate governance is a structure for control, whose main objective is to protect investors and to enable the execution of appropriate return on investment, as well as drawing closer up the contradicting interests of shareholders and management [1]



START of Campaign
March 2015