Accueil » 56-1 ( 2001) » Le métier de préventionniste : contexte de travail et profils d’activités

Le métier de préventionniste : contexte de travail et profils d’activités

Jean-Pierre Brun et Claude D. Loiselle

Résumé

Cet article présente les résultats d’un sondage conduit auprès de préventionnistes représentant l’employeur (n = 111) et de préventionnistes représentant les travailleurs (n = 134) afin de mieux comprendre leurs rôles et leurs fonctions respectives au sein des entreprises. Après une revue de littérature faisant le point sur les dernières connaissances concernant le métier de préventionniste, nous élaborons un cadre théorique permettant deconceptualiser le travail de ces derniers. Les analyses du sondage permettent de faire état des principales caractéristiques du contexte de travail des préventionnistes. Nous décrivons ensuite leurs différents profils permettant de catégoriser leur travail en fonction de trois dimensions (organisationnelle, humaine et technique) et de deux niveaux d’intervention (stratégique et opérationnel).

Abstract

The Work of Safety Practitioners : Work Context and Activity Profile

In this article, the term front-line safety practitioners refers to the various company members who regularly and directly intervene in the workplace with respect to health and safety within organizations. This definition covers both employer and worker representatives, whether or not they have undergone training recognized by an occupational health and safety agency. (Work inspectors, specialized consultants and physicians are here excluded from the category of front-line safety practitioners.)

Today’s front-line safety practitioners working within companies must be adaptable because they face a constantly evolving work environment and increased complexity in their occupational health and safety work. We observe two concomitant phenomena within companies : an increase in the number of occupational health and safety interveners (foremen, engineers, managers, employees) and increased expertise in prevention. Although the safety practitioner presumably plays an essential role in this tension between generalization and specialization, little is known about its inherent functions and responsibilities.

Based on the literature addressing safety practitioners’ work, their activities and the work sites where they operate, we have identified three major spheres where the activities identified in prevention can be linked. Preventive initiatives can be directed toward the human, technical and organizational dimensions of work. Moreover, the scope of safety practitioners’ activities spans different levels. Sometimes safety practitioners are directly involved in operational activities (e.g., risk inspection, correction of technical failures) whereas at other times they intervene on a much more strategic level (e.g., company policies, occupational health and safety management system).

This article presents the results of a survey conducted among safety practitioners representing employers (n = 111) and safety practitioners representing employees (n = 134), with the objective of developing a better understanding of their respective roles and functions within the companies concerned. The analysis of these results provides a means by which to examine the work context of safety practitioners and highlight its main characteristics.

The most significant conclusion that may be drawn from our study is that there is no one right way to conduct preventive interventions. On the contrary, a wide range of intervention strategies results from organizational conditions, interpersonal relations and the characteristic traits of safety practitioners themselves. Implementation of prevention measures is thus a complex issue that becomes incorporated into safety practitioners’ relations with the various company members.

Based on the responses of employer and worker safety practitioners, we are also able to conclude that intervention priorities are not perceived in the same way. Employer-appointed safety practitioners give priority to the individual and his or her work behaviour and methods. Worker-appointed safety practitioners, however, adopt a more union-oriented view, assigning top priority to having management take action and to administering operational policies in occupational health and safety.

The findings also show that work is to an extent divided up between the employers’ representatives, whose initiatives are primarily oriented toward the organizational level, and the employees’ representatives, whose actions are focused on the technical level. Upon closer analysis, we note that nearly one out of two employer-appointed safety practitioners (48.6%) regularly intervenes at the organizational level. A trend can be observed whereby the safety practitioner emerges as a member whose role as coach, rather than solely as an agent of prevention, becomes increasingly significant. Among safety practitioners named by workers, the intervention profile that stands out (44.8% of cases) is the one termed “technical/operational.” As safety practitioners who operate in the field, they clearly possess and apply an expertise of their own, which most certainly enables them to conduct prevention interventions at the source of risks.

Very few studies address what the work of safety practitioners actually entails. Our research provides a detailed portrait of the intervention practices and the roles of safety practitioners representing the employer and those representing workers.

Resumen

El oficio de prevencionista : contexto de trabajo y perfil de actividades

Este artículo presenta los resultados de una encuesta que se administró a prevencionistas representantes de empleadores (n = 111) y prevencionistas representantes de trabajadores (n = 134), con el objetivo de comprender sus respectivas funciones dentro de la empresa. Luego de una revisión de la literatura actualizada con los recientes conocimientos sobre el oficio de prevencionista, los autores elaboran un marco teorico que permite conceptualizar el trabajo de los prevencionistas. El analisis de la encuesta permite de establecer las principales caracteristicas del contexto de trabajo de los prevencionistas. Son descritos, enseguida, los diferentes prototipos que permiten de categorizar su trabajo en funcion de tres dimensiones (organizacional, humana et tecnica) y de dos niveles de intervención (estratégica y operacional).