Research Note: Networking Among Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Meeting the Challenge of Promoting Safety and Health

Hans Jørgen Limborg, Sisse Grøn, Maya Flensborg Jensen

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Researchers and regulatory bodies lack an in-depth understanding of how small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) make decisions about workplace health and safety improvements and the role played by business networks in these decisions. To improve regulation and support there is a need to understand SMEs better and, to create the means to empower them to work systematically with occupational health and safety. The present study suggests that networks of SMEs might be a suitable target for interventions. Realistic evaluation and social capital theory based on data obtained via qualitative interviews, document analysis and observations were used to analyse two networks of small enterprises (in dairy and brewery) in Denmark that launched similar occupational health projects but had different outcomes. Whilst both Dairy (D) and Brewery (B) networks had active external funding, the following differences between external and internal mechanisms driving SME workplace safety decisions within each network were found: External - pressures from labour inspectors (D - active, B - limited), professional support (D - active, B - partly); Internal - horizontal relations/shared identity (D - very active, B - limited), mutual trust (D - active, B - limited), workers involved in 'button up' process ( D - to some extent, B - nonexistent), exclusion criteria (D - agreed, B - none), pact on openness (D - agreed, B - not defined), shared commitment to new standards (D - limited, B - non-existent). It is concluded that both external pressures and internal motivations must be present to drive SMEs within a network to improve health and safety conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSmall Enterprise Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)214-222
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • SME
  • Work environment
  • Intervention
  • Network
  • Realistic evaluation

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