The limits of influence? Using leverage in business relations to incentivise good practice in health and safety management

David Walters

David Walters is a professor at Cardiff University and director of the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre. He is also the editor of the journal Policy and Practice in Health and Safety. Dr. Walters has particular interests in employee representation and consultation on health and safety, the politics of health and safety at work, regulating health and safety management, chemical risk management at work, and health and safety in small firms. Walters has undertaken an international review of worker representation related to health and safety in collaboration with the European Trades Union Confederation, a study of the role of supply chains in regulating health and safety and, most recently, a series of studies on chemical risk management.


The restructuring of work and business relations has considerably changed the economic scenarios in which occupational health and safety is regulated. A host of challenges to conventional approaches to regulation have emerged.

In particular, outsourcing has created new business dependencies and enhanced the role of supply chain management in business strategies. Previous research suggests that much of this change has potentially negative consequences for health and safety practices and performance, especially among suppliers who may struggle to meet the price and delivery demands of more powerful buyers. At the same time, policies to address some of these challenges have pointed to the use of leverage in the same supply relations to enhance health and safety management among suppliers.

This presentation explores this paradox using findings from two recent studies. It also offers some reflections on these findings and their place in the wider context of strategies that create incentives for good practice in health and safety management.