Adverse work environments, occupational sickness and accidents are common problems for many ‘Small and Medium Scale Enterprises’ (SMEs) in different parts of the world. Seeking better ways to improve health and safety in SMEs is a key target for national authorities and international agencies. This study aims to apply and evaluate the effectiveness of an occupational health training method called ‘Participatory Action Oriented Training’ (PAOT); claims have been made that PAOT is an effective technique for improving health and safety at SMEs in developing countries. An intervention study was performed with the assistance of 20 volunteer SMEs from five major industries in Can Tho City, Vietnam, between May 2007 and May 2008, to evaluate the effectiveness of the PAOT programme. The programme was applied in 10 factories and the traditional local health and safety methods were applied to the 10 ‘control’ factories. The research was conducted in two phases (pre-intervention and post-intervention) and consisted of matched cross-sectional studies using managers’ questionnaires (n=69), environmental measurements (personal dust (n=360), static dust (n=360), toxic gases (n=72), noise (n=540), lighting (n=900), air temperature (n=720), air humidity (n=720), air velocity (n=720)). Data were also collected quarterly follow-up visits to record the number of improvements that had been made, and to obtain monthly factory reports on productivity, workers’ income, accidents, sickness absence, health visits, and health costs. There were significant improvements among intervention factories after one year in terms of environment measurements, numbers of improvements, numbers of cases of sickness and accidents, health costs, productivity and workers’ incomes. The findings of the intervention study support the idea that a PAOT programme produces better outcomes in SMEs than a local traditional occupational health programme. The current study was limited, however, in a number of ways, and a fuller examination of PAOT will require a larger study with more environmental measurements taken over a much longer period of time, together with data on sickness absence and accidents that have been independently validated
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