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No blueprint for employee participation

Employee participation, as a democratic right, is an important principle in Norwegian labour policies. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway’s (PSA’s) conference “Power or impotence? Employee participation in the petroleum industry” identified major differences in how participation is practiced.

Employee participation is a central part of the work to establish and further develop a high HSE level in the petroleum industry.

Requirements for employee participation are regulated by law in the Working Environment Act and in the Regulations relating to Health, Safety and Environment in the Petroleum Industry (Section 6 of the Framework Regulations ).
But there is no blueprint as to how employee participation should be put into practice.

“The regulations allow for the employer solving this in a number of ways. As a result, we see a large variety internally in the industry, both in regard to how participation is practiced and how the players facilitate participation,” says Tone Guldbrandsen, principal engineer in the PSA and chief initiator of the conference “Power or impotence? Employee participation in the petroleum industry” which was held at the beginning of September.

Regulated by law
The intention of employee participation is to use the collective knowledge and experience of the employees on order to ensure that issues related to health, safety and the environment are sufficiently illuminated before a decision is made. Participation will also provide employees with the opportunity to influence their own work situation.

It is crucial that those exposed to risk are allowed to participate in decision-making processes which will impact HSE.

Exchange of experience
The employee participation conference gathered employee representatives, employers, researchers and authorities for a full day of presentations and discussions on this important subject.

The goal of the conference was to shed light on employee participation from various angles, and to bring forth experience, ideas and proposals from the parties.

The parties varied in their view of what is good and bad practice in terms of employee participation.
“Although employee participation appears, for the most part, to function well, we also see examples of the opposite,“ Tone Gulbrandsen confirms.

Future prospects
Sintef has been commissioned to draw up a report which summarises the conference and highlights the most important issues.

”We have also asked Sintef to make recommendations as to the road ahead. These recommendations can be directed both at the employee/employer organisations and the authorities,” Guldbrandsen says.

One thing is the current practice of employee participation, but just as important is taking a look at the crystal ball and trying to see how participation can be developed further – in line with changes in industry.

New technology and new organisational forms may challenge employee participation, both in regard to contents and to how participation is carried out.

“It is therefore necessary to look at how we can develop employee participation further,” Gulbrandsen says.
It is expected that the Sintef report will be ready in the second half of October.